It all started with the Hokey Pokey in Kindergarten. I put my right foot in, I put my right foot out, I put my right foot in, but when it was time to shake it all about I lost my balance and tipped over. (Note to self: Tipping over is a teapot activity. Wrong song.) I didn’t have to worry about it long, though, because as soon as I told Mom, she informed me that the Hokey Pokey was “dancin” and we don’t do that…hence a note to Mrs. Hepler…please excuse Janice from Hokey Pokey, etc. etc. Sigh.
Kindergarten games gave way to hopscotch (where I also lost my balance) and jump rope, where I was always foiled in my attempts at the dreaded Double Dutch. Not once could I do it. I would bob and count and thought I had it timed, but alas…
While other kids lived for recess, I just wondered what new devilish devices of torture in the way of recreation were waiting for me. Recreation..interesting word. Webster says it means “refreshment of strength and spirits after work.” Anybody who has ever been uncoordinated enough to miss kicking a giant red rubber ball when it’s rolled to you can tell you there’s nothing refreshing about it. It’s fresh humiliation, and you know the next time kickball teams are chosen you’ll be picked just after that three legged dog that runs through the playground because he’s a better fielder than you are. Well, at least there was my yellow hula hoop. I kept it spinning a good five seconds before it dropped to the ground in shame and disgust.
Now we’ve moved on to sixth grade and they’ve brought out the big gray tumbling mats. The instruction was “don’t do anything fancy” (as if I could), “just straight forward as many times as you can.” By the second tumble, I was off the side of my mat, colliding squarely with the girl on the next mat who gave me a stunned, “Hey! What gives?”
Freshman year meant swimming at the municipal pool. “Dear Mrs . So and So, please excuse Janice, etc. etc., as we do not swim in public.” (Like the option was to swim in private? We call that taking a bath.) And then there was bowling. Lovely. I got to pay to wear somebody else’s nasty shoes that had probably been there since the Eisenhower administration. Filthy shoes aside, I actually thought I did pretty well for having the wrong fingers in the ball and even managed to get the ball to bounce two lanes over. I’m not sure how many points I got for almost taking out that old lady. She was “spared” at the last moment.
Ah yes, Sophomore gymnastics. This is a sport that confuses me. I will never understand what all those flailing arm movements have to do with gymnastics. So flip already! You look like a dying mallard. It was idiotic, but it was easier than the balance beam where I promptly fell and sported a bruise slightly smaller than the state of Montana on my right knee and thigh. And since that wasn’t abuse enough, I hung my foot on the pommel horse, flew off and was briefly knocked out. I woke up with Mrs. So and So’s face in mine. I’m not sure who was more shaken, me or her. How embarrassing to be pummeled by the pommel.
Sooo, senior year he finally asked me out, that special guy I’d had my eye on. “Hey, let’s go skating”, he said, as my heart sank. I should have just strapped the roller skates to my South 40 because that’s where I spent most of my time. I finally said “enough”, put my street shoes back on and watched him complete the evening with another girl who rolled his way, I guess. Just for a moment there, I’ll admit I wished I was the Blonde Bomber, the roller derby queen, and I could introduce her to my elbow. I’ve since repented.
By this time you’re probably getting the idea that I was behind the door the day coordination was handed out, but I was not finished humiliating myself. So, as I recall the story now, I was married at last (not to roller rink guy ) and living in a strange town. My new girlfriends were all taking up tennis, so the four of us signed up for lessons and I’m pretty sure this kid had no idea what he was in for. Two of the ladies did okay, one dropped out and I kept chasing balls like a dog chasing cars, but never connecting. Finally, the guy says, “I don’t think this is your sport.” Ya think? They lost me trying to figure out what the word “love” had to do with tennis, so (bump bump bump..Another One Bites the Dust.)
So, I say to myself I’m a grown woman now and, yes, thank you, we will go “swimming”. I signed up and paid for 8 weeks of lessons at the “Y”, two days a week for an hour. As I waited for class to begin, I was encouraged to see the toddlers in the Water Babies class as they would jump off fearlessly into the water and kick for all they were worth, having a glorious time. I thought, I can do that. The first class was basically “step away from the side of the pool”. The second was getting your head under water and then trying to float. Apparently, I have an iron constitution because I don’t float. Seriously! I couldn’t float. The third class the instructor said, “I’m putting this brick on the bottom of the pool. Go get it.” I tried to go down a few feet, got panicked, and said, “Nope, nope, nope, that’s it.” So, for the next six and a half weeks, every Tuesday and Thursday, I packed my gear, trotted out the door at the appointed time toward those lessons my husband paid for, parked in a grocery store parking lot and waited until class time would surely be over. The only exercise I got was twiddling my thumbs. Yes, I have since repented of that, too.
I’d love to tell you that somewhere along the line I had a miraculous turn around and became a great sports woman, but not so, for as recently as a few years ago I mounted my brand new bicycle, pedaled down the driveway and promptly plowed into old Mr. Tappy’s mailbox. Except for popping the chain and Mrs. Short yelling “encouragement” from her front porch, I was fine. Mortified, but fine.
I was thoroughly convinced that, other than a rousing game of Uno on Christmas Day, physical activity, sports, or anything that requires movement on my part is apparently not for me. I thought there is literally nothing I can do. Don’t look for me to train for the Senior Olympics any time soon.
It is good then, perhaps, that what is asked of me at present is quite simple really, and I am currently in training. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV) says “…train yourself to be Godly. For physical training is of some value, but Godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life, and the life to come.” That doesn’t mean to cancel your gym membership, but just train for the important things and keep your priorities straight. I do have to run. No, I’m not fast and it ain’t pretty sometimes, but in my race I’m competing against no one but myself. I have to stay in my lane with eyes on the prize and it doesn’t matter what the person in the next lane is doing. Eyes front. Hebrews 12:1 reminds me to throw off everything that would hinder me and run with perseverance the race that is marked out for me, not somebody else. Yes, it’s true these days I tire more easily, but Galations 6:9 (NIV) tells me to “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” I may come in toward the last, but I will finish.
Finally, Ephesians 6:13 (NIV) tells me to “stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand, stand firm…”. At last… something I think I might be able to do… STAND. Surely I can just stand. But if my knees grow weak and I get wobbly and fall over, I hope there’s a Christian “coach” out there to stick their big ole head and whistle in my face and check on me, pull me back up and dust me off.
So, hang in there fellow “uncoordinates”. Let’s exercise our faith, no matter how clumsily. We may have to play dodge ball with this world’s insults, but no matter. If you can’t do anything but STAND, stand for Christ and wait for the bell to ring so class will be over and we can go home. Home sounds good. Come on bell!