Saturday, May 01, 2004

The real battle

Yesterday when my son Christopher came down to breakfast, he was too queasy to eat. He had several solos in the big spring band concert last night and the anxiety was making him sick to his stomach. This morning, I sat in the rain and watched my son Cameron's baseball team take the field for the first time this year. I watched as each boy struggled with nervousness, embarrassment, risking failure in the hope of winning and maybe even having fun.

The battle, it seemed to me, was won or lost before each boy walked to the plate. His body language, his stride, the set of his cap and jaw, the expression on his face, all told whether doubt or faith was winning the battle within him. Was his fear of failure greater than his belief in himself? By the time the ball came flying over the plate, the boy's swing was just a continuation of the theme--winning or losing--that was already playing inside him.

I have noticed this phenomenon at instrumental competitions as well. Young men and women who have played performance pieces flawlessly at home stand outside contest rooms struggling with self-doubt and fear. They know they can play the piece they've practiced hundreds of times. That's not the question. But will they be able to do it now and here and in front of this judge?

The real battle, I think, is not about our abilities or about the way the world will receive and recognize us. It has something to do with where we start--what we believe in, who we listen to, where we place our trust. My supervisor at the hospital would say, "It's about knowing who we are and Whose we are." I do believe that if God leads me to a situation, He'll lead me through it. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't still struggle at the plate, skip breakfast because of butterflies, or pray like crazy when I'm on my way to respond to an emergency call. It just means that I hope I remember at some point in the experience that the battle is inside, not out, and that God has already won it.

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