DROPPING THE BALL
I’ve heard time and again that a person gains a whole new understanding of the Lord after becoming a parent. I can’t even fathom how true this is because just my two little golden retrievers give me new perspectives of my Abba Daddy every day.
Olive, our younger dog, is nothing like any dog I have ever owned. She has the most uncontainable, jubilant, loving spirit—she is lying her head on my pillow with her snout on my shoulder even as I write this—but the single most valuable treasures in her world are her tennis balls.
We have about thirty (seriously) tennis balls throughout the house at any given time and often, we find ourselves cracking up as we go to bed at night and find them stashed beneath our pillows or buried in our sheets. But, despite how many choices there are, Olive has this incredible ability to choose a specific ball and favor it throughout a day or a week. She can play fetch for hours without her exuberance dwindling.
When she was a puppy discovering her love for this game, she had this funny tendency to chase after the ball and bring it back to us to throw again, but she was so excited and enamored by the ball itself that she couldn’t let go of it. She would sit in front of us, wagging her tail wildly and whining hysterically, but she would pull back her head when we would reach for the ball. It was truly comical but, sometimes, she would drive us mad with her incessant begging for us to throw coupled with her unwillingness to let the ball go.
And once, sitting on the back patio and desperately trying to get Olive to let me have the ball so that she could run after it, God nudged me in His funny and fatherly way and said so clearly, “She is just like her mama, isn’t she?” I could practically hear the affectionate chuckle in His voice and had this picture of Him watching us there on the patio, His hands tucked into His pockets and a huge grin painted onto His face. Because every good father loves an opportunity to teach his children.
And there, He revealed to me all the ways that I am no different than an over-excited puppy with a tennis ball clutched protectively in its jaw.
The tennis ball is the absolute desire of Olive’s heart. Her entire existence revolves around when the next game of fetch will be. Yet, she loves the ball so much, she just couldn’t let it go, even though she knew that I was going to make it fly for her. She knew that, gripped in her teeth, that ball wasn’t going to go anywhere.
As are my dreams.
I love them. As a matter of fact, they are the driving force behind my life and my purpose, the destination that I wake up in the morning facing toward. More than anything, I want to watch these dreams propel forward, to see them bloom and grow and develop and take on the shape and movement they are intended to. And, clutched in my palms, they've got nothing but inertia, waiting for a force to cause them to move. And in front of me sits my Father, hands open, telling me over and over and over again to drop it. Urging me to release the suffocating grip I have on my heart’s desires and to place them into the hands of the only being who can give them the force they need to fly. He did give them to me in the first place, after all.
The moment Olive sets that ball in my hands, I throw it through the air and she flies after it, tail zooming back and forth and lips peeled back over her teeth with elation. And over the years, she has learned that she can trust me with her treasures, that I know her heart and will always give her what she needs to become fully and totally herself. As her trust in me has grown, her self-will has softened and her grip on the ball has loosened and she is now able to rest in the knowledge that her ball is safe in my hands. I did give it to her in the first place, after all.
This is what we are called to do. To grow in trust and, therefore, weaken in self-reliance and become better stewards to our treasured dreams as we become comfortable in the knowledge that our Father loves to watch us as we chase after the dreams that He is propelling forward for us. But the only way to learn this is to let go of our control and drop the ball—not only the first time but over and over and over again.