by Ava Pennington @AvaPennington
He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good. Proverbs 19:8 NASB
The outing was shrouded in mystery. All the planner would say is that we had to dress casually, wear all-white, and make sure we wore comfortable shoes – preferably sneakers. The four of us met at 9:00 am, three of us still clueless about our destination.
When we arrived at our destination, a small, unassuming sign by the entrance announced “National Croquet Center.” A long driveway led us to a clubhouse built in the style and charm of old Florida.
We spent the morning with our instructor, Monte, who patiently explained the history and rudiments of the game. And we had a ball (pun intended!). However, the more Monte spoke, the more I was impressed with applications far beyond the game of croquet.
One of his first words of advice was never say “I can’t.” When one of us faced a difficult shot, the words, “I can’t do this,” often escaped our lips. Monte was quick to admonish us that if we say we can’t, then we have effectively denied ourselves even the chance of succeeding.
As a Christian, I have an even better reason to avoid saying “I can’t.” I’ve been called to do many things beyond what I believe are my abilities. Still, I have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to enable me to succeed in what He wants me to accomplish. Maybe I can’t…but He can through me! As the apostle Paul wrote, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20 ESV).
Another bit of advice from our instructor was to follow-through on each swing of the mallet to gain the distance we needed for the shot. Life is like that, isn’t it? We begin a task, then become distracted or discouraged, and we don’t finish what we start. How many unfinished craft projects are hidden in the recesses of my closet? How many partial manuscripts are sitting inside documents in my computer? The Bible reminds us “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4 NIV).
Monte also cautioned us to be aware of the danger ball. The danger ball belonged to the next person in turn. Even if I set up a perfect shot, the danger ball could knock me out of position.
I’ve been hit by some danger balls in life. It happens when I become complacent, or when I allow unrealistic expectations of people or circumstances to cloud my judgment. The apostle Peter reminds us to “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8 NIV). Even Jesus told His followers to “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 NIV).
Speaking of being aware of the danger ball leads me to Monte’s next piece of advice, “Don’t block your partner.” We played in teams, and in addition to being aware of who followed us from the opposing team, we needed to be aware of our partner’s position. It didn’t benefit my team if I only focused on myself. Many of the times we scored a wicket were because one team member made sure her shot did not block her partner.
What would happen in our relationships if we heeded this advice? More to the point, what would happen in our marriages if we heeded this advice? Paul advised us to “not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4 NASB). We can at least start by not “blocking” our spouses so they are free to move as God leads!
Closely related to that last bit of advice is this: “Don’t trash the opposition; instead encourage your partner.” Croquet is a polite game. Instead of trash-talking between teams, we were exhorted to have a positive focus. Paul might have had something similar in mind when he wrote, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV).
Our morning lesson culminated in a delightful lunch on the veranda, overlooking the croquet courts. Did I have fun? Absolutely! But I also learned something about myself. Now if I can only remember to apply those lessons…in croquet and in life!
About the author: Ava Pennington is an author, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) teacher, and speaker. Her most recent book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God, is endorsed by Kay Arthur of Precepts Ministries.
Ava has also published stories in 30+ anthologies, including 25 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her articles have appeared in numerous magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse.
She is a passionate speaker and delights in encouraging groups with relevant, enjoyable presentations. For more information, visit www.AvaWrites.com.
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