Sometimes you don’t understand the reason for the adversity, or maybe you see the lesson in it, but God expands it further.
The following morning, after being made to feel unwelcome at the pickle court, we drove back, hoping the group that had only been there on Tuesdays hadn’t returned.
As I pulled around the familiar corner, we saw their cars lined up, so we knew it wasn’t worth the effort to try. I wasn’t going to try to negotiate anything.
Some would say,
“Witness to them! Share God’s love with them! Maybe God wants you to play doubles!”
Another voice says, maybe that lady is right. Maybe you are disrespectful.
When met with so much greed and negativity, it’s easier just to make yourself out to be the bad guy. You start to question if you did the right thing or not.
My daughter’s comment that “humanity is sad” led her also to say,
“I’m not going to live my life on their schedule.”
How could we possibly try to figure out what time to show up? Even if I got there at 3 am, they were so possessive and controlling that I swear they would start to appear from the woods like the zombies from Night of the Living Dead.
Instead of my body, they would want my pickleball space.
“Maybe we are supposed to be doing something else,” she said as we watched them happily play with all the people they associated with. There was no room in their agenda to let us in, and I felt I didn’t want to be “in.”
Just as I had sensed the other day, it was their way or the highway, which was why I felt such a clash. I didn’t match up to the attitude, the spirit, or frequency they operated on.
A lot of us try to “fit in.” We conform and scrunch ourselves down to meet others at their level while becoming a shell of ourselves. When you do that, you miss another opportunity God has for you. From toxic people and dead-end jobs, whatever fills up a place that doesn’t bring you life, it’s taking up the spot of something or someone who could.
“I’m going back to where we started,” I told her as I left.
I felt this strong pull to abandon a situation in which I would never make a dent. It would be me beating my head against a wall. I tried and got absolutely nowhere the day before. Sometimes it’s dark, and God isn’t asking you to be the light at that moment.
Jesus said in Matthew 10:14:
When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don’t welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way. (Message)
So I shrugged.
The familiar streets and the houses I used to walk by on my way to elementary school brought a sense of peace. The park I used to ride my bike to all summer long, where I played softball, was quiet.
This is where she and I tried to play weeks ago when we had no idea what we were doing. The asphalt is nothing special compared to what we had just had the luxury of using, but I knew I was in the right place.
The city marked tan lines over the white ones used for tennis. It’s not pretty and brightly multicolored. It’s cracked with weeds starting to run all over it.
“I will deal with weeds and cracks at this point just to have the enjoyment of playing.”
A retired couple was doing yard work, and I immediately saw the mourning dove perched on the high wire singing. Those are always a reminder to me that my grandma is close by. Her North Dakota yard was filled with them, and their sad song troubled me when I was little.
“I don’t like those woo birds,” I told her. Every time I heard one, I felt this lonesome feeling that I had difficulty explaining when I was a kid.
“Chrissy,” she said smiling, “that’s just how they sing. It’s nothing to be scared of.”
From that day on, she called them “woo birds” with a slight laugh, and her explanation made me not fear them.
I had noticed it before when we had played here, and now it was back in the same spot. Watching.
We began to play, and I realized how far along we had come from those weeks prior when I had to tape up her arm for tennis elbow. We had learned a lot.
“Does this hurt?” I asked when I tried to remove the first piece. I had helped her apply black tape, the type you see all the Olympians wearing while they tough out an injury to play.
I took more off. There was no wincing.
“How about now?”
“No,” she replied calmly.
I thought maybe it was like one of those no-stick bandaids. And with no signs of pain, I ripped it across the rest of the way. That’s when the screaming started, but I was in mid-rip, so the momentum carries you.
“You took off all of my DNA!”
“You said it didn’t hurt!”
“Not at first!”
“Do you want me to put another piece on?”
“NO! I will do it!”
I wasn’t getting by pain-free either. Those first few sessions had left my lower body in agony that would strike, especially when I went up or down stairs. Epsom salts and the tub became my best friend.
That was all behind us now as we had gotten stronger and faster.
“That ball hit this crack over here,” she said. I had traded the superior for not as good, so I did what I always did. I prayed. As the hoo bird was my witness, I said,
“God, have the city fill in these cracks and get all these weeds out of here. I command it in the name of Jesus that they clean this up for us.”
That was it. We played, she won, and we switched sides.
I listened to the elderly couple talk and laugh with each other as she weed whipped, and he picked up sticks and branches. What a great antidote to the ugly behavior I had seen the day before.
Within moments, a city truck pulled up, and a man came to the fence.
I was attempting to return a ball.
“That hit the crack, and I still got it over,” I said to my opponent, who can beat me at every game now that her elbow is healed.
“That’s why I’m here. I just sprayed weed killer not long ago, and now I’m back to assess how I can fix this up.”
I told him what had happened at the other court.
“Pickleball players, especially the older ones, can be very mean.”
One of the comments made to me the day before was how “nasty” I was when pickleball was a sport that was always so nice. It was an attempt to bad-mouth me.
“You run into mean people?” I asked.
There’s another location he services that has courts like the one we had been kicked off of.
“They are not nice. They act like they own that place,” he said.
I had tried to reason nicely, and because I hadn’t given in, I was also called disrespectful. So I wasn’t a bad person, and his description sounded like what I had said to the woman. Territorial.
“We like to play, and I will play here no matter how awful it is to avoid all that meanness.”
“I will work on this,” he said. “I can make this nicer.”
“Don’t make it too nice. Keep it kind of crappy, so it doesn’t get taken over,” I said.
“I will try,” he said, smiling.
Before I left, I introduced myself to the happy couple working in their yard. Even while they were engaged in manual labor, they would stop every so often, talk, and start to laugh.
“You two don’t seem like you are working. You seem happy together.”
As he slathered on sunscreen, he said,
“You don’t see us all the time,” sending her into another round of laughing.
The next day when we returned, he yelled,
“Good morning, ladies!” as he jumped in his truck and drove away.
And just like that, God turned water into wine.