The other day, while playing soccer, my daughter’s cleat came off. She was fighting for the ball and as she kicked, her shoe slipped off and landed a few feet away. She kept playing as best she could without one cleat. Thankfully, a couple of seconds later, the action moved a few feet away and she grabbed it and started to put it on. It was almost on, when the ball came right at her. Girls came flocking at and around her and she stood up and she gave that soccer ball a good kick out of danger, while off went the shoe flying through the air, almost as far as the ball! We all laughed but as I watched her go about putting the shoe on properly, all the while keeping an eye on the action, I noticed she did what she always does – she gave 100 percent. It did not matter if her shoe was off or on or partly on, she just kept playing, as needed.
And then it hit me–what a great lesson for life! So many days something small happens to me and instead of responding with joy and love, I feel myself shrink inside and I withdraw or lash out. I end up laying there on the field struggling to put my shoe on, not paying attention or caring about what’s going on with anyone around me.
These little incidents happen every day to most of us. They are things like unexpected bills, internet that decides to stop working, a rude phone call or email, a disobedient or rebellious child, a vehicle that breaks down, and a scales that is showing a depressing number, just to name a few of the many things that go wrong almost every day.
Sometimes when these things happen, I find myself sinking into a well of self-pity. Why me? Why now? Poor me. Why do we let these things affect our mood? Instead, we should be putting that shoe back on, all the while keeping an eye out for what’s going in the rest of life’s game. However, sadly, many of us end up laying on the field, holding our shoe, and crying for someone to pay attention to our woes.
Oswald Chambers says this about self-pity:
“Self-pity is of the devil, and if I wallow in it I cannot be used by God for His purpose in the world.”
And I will add this by Elisabeth Elliot:
“Self-pity is a death that has no resurrection, a sinkhole from which no rescuing hand can drag you because you have chosen to sink.”
Have you ever given thought to just how dangerous it is to sit on the field of life and pity yourself? God is always working on me and this week He has helped me to see that taking a break to lick my wounds and say “woe is me!” just isn’t an option for a Christian. No matter what happens to me, I need to keep going.
Okay, so some days it isn’t just a shoe. Last spring, my other daughter took a soccer ball to the wrist during a game. She kept going, but I could see she was in a lot of pain, until finally she told her coach to take her out. She got some Advil and went back in the second half. We found out later that the excruciating pain was due to a broken bone and she was out for a good part of the season. But she kept going to all of the games and sat on the sidelines, cheering and encouraging the girls.
We get broken bones, too, sometimes. Terrible, painful things happen to us, things like disease, death, lost jobs, and broken relationships. Sometimes we need to pull back from life and work through our grief and pain. And so we sit on the sideline for a temporary time, until such a time that we are healed enough to return to the game.
God uses so many things to help us become more like Jesus. Big trials and small annoyances. But if we are wallowing in self-pity, we will never have the opportunity to figure out what he is trying to teach us. Self-pity is a danger to our soul. May we never forget it!