When I was 14, I started playing club volleyball, and I was on San Diego Volleyball Club’s worst 14-year old team, “14-Green.” 14-Blue was elite, 14-White was almost-elite, and 14-Red was really good.
Then there were all seven of us on 14-Green. Beginners.
Deanna, a college volleyball player at San Diego State, was our coach. She would often bring her very cute boyfriend, Tag, to our practices—which was one part thrilling and one part embarrassing (because we were so bad)—and he would try to help us, too.
Deanna was very blonde and very tan and she wore Quelques Fleurs perfume that would fill the gym as practice would go on. She was kind of a goddess to me.
She taught me how to hit a volleyball. The right way.
Over the course of my time on 14-Green, we practiced learning the proper approach and timing and technique to hit a volleyball. And I was awful.
I had grown up watching my older sister play. I had watched women of all shapes and sizes approach and hit the volleyball. Left, right, left. Jump. Swing.
But, as you might imagine, it’s a lot harder than it looks.
And when it was my turn to learn the finer points of being a hitter, it took time. A long time. An entire club season, in fact.
Each week I’d come to practice and Deanna would set so that we had perfect sets and we’d practice over and over and over again. Getting the rhythm and the timing and the footwork and the swing. It’s a complicated thing, jumping and hitting a ball that’s also moving.
Here’s the reality: you don’t get it until you finally get it. You lumber awkwardly. You miss the ball altogether, maybe. You trip over your own two feet. You send the ball sailing off your wrist, floating out of bounds, because you haven’t learned how to snap your wrist yet. You get too far under the ball, or behind it, or ahead of it. You hit the net because you haven’t yet figured out your body in the air. You look as awkward as a 14-year-old girl could look, which is miserable.
On the second-to-last practice for 14-Green, I approached, jumped, reached up, and I hit a ball out of the air and I knew THAT was what it was supposed to feel like to hit a volleyball. THAT was it.
But it wouldn’t have clicked without a years-worth of tries. That’s the inconvenient truth.
A couple months later, I made the varsity volleyball team at my high school as a freshman, played throughout high school, and went on to play in college. I was never an Olympian or anything, but I played and I was really actually decent and I always loved it.
I very often think about that club season I spent on 14-Green with Deanna and her intoxicating perfume and her SO cute boyfriend and the time it took to really GET IT. I hated how awkward it all felt, how frustrating, and then what it felt like when everything clicked.
When things aren’t arriving in the time or method that we believe they should, when life is not showing up on the wings of ease, things can feel so incredibly circular, wasted, vulnerable.
I guess I believe, more than I ever have, how important it is to keep showing up for practice every day, even when we don’t see much progress in the moment.
In fact, I think it’s actually very subversive to the darkness when we choose to walk ourselves out into the light each and every day, however awkwardly.
And I believe God wants to help us GET IT. Maybe (and this is the bad news) not in the ways that we would like. Maybe we want to get the right house to arrive or the right man or the right child or the right job. Maybe God simply wants to help the right attitude or perspective or truth or freedom or healing or compassion to arrive. Ugghhh. (Thanks for nothing.)
But, in the end, we see that the time wasn’t wasted and that we were given a gift that we wouldn’t have received any other way. If we’re willing. If we’ll keep showing up. If we’ll keep participating. If we’ll choose to begin again. Something arrives that we needed, even if it didn’t come to us in the way we would have planned.
So, my point is, I bet every single one of you reading this has something in your life that God is – right now, today – inviting you to show up for. And, maybe it feels circular and non-ending, and unresolvable, and inefficient, and maybe even pointless, futile. Oh well. What if we just showed up anyway? Together? What if we just put one foot in front of the other and we tried, trusting that our one step will be met with a thousand steps of God’s grace?
Christ appears on the beach after his resurrection. His disciples have been fishing all night with no luck and they don’t yet realize it’s him on the beach.
He calls out: “Cast your nets on the right again.”
I’m sure they rolled their eyes and said under their breaths to each other (with a lot of attitude), “Ugghhh. Hellooooo. Did we mention we’ve been doing that all night?”
But they did it anyway, and John 21 reports they couldn’t haul the net in the catch was so great.
Are we willing to send the nets out one more time? Even when our previous casts have produced “nothing”? Are we willing to respond to the subversive invitation of participation? Are we willing to show up to practice and work on that impossible footwork and timing one more time? Are we willing to GET IT?
Might Christ be asking you to entertain hope today? The audacity of possibility? The subversion of practice? The rebellion of showing up instead of floating away?
With love to you today as we cast our nets again,