When I hear the bounce of a ping-pong ball, I think of these things:
When I met Jim for the first time, he carried a ping-pong paddle everywhere he went ready to take a challenge of ping-pong at anytime. Jim used a game of ping-pong to get to know me better. As we played, we had found out that his Wesley Foundation tour group had gone to Texas for Spring Break and the college choir I sung with went to Texas during Spring Break. We discussed our itineraries of Spring Break and found out that we had followed each other up and down the Gulf Coast that Spring. As a matter of fact, his group had been invited to come to a church where the choir I was with was performing one evening. Yet, Jim opted not to go but stayed behind at the Rec center of the church that was lodging his group. He opted out to play ping-pong! Even though Jim didn’t hear God tell him the girl of his dreams was at this church and yielded to play ping-pong that evening, God did get us together three months later at Lake Junaluska. And, it was a game of ping-pong where we began to share our stories and bond.
When I hear the bounce of a ping-pong ball on the table, I think of a trip I took to Costa Rica my senior year in high school. I was part of a Mission Team that went to one of the small towns in the mountains of Costa Rica to work on a Methodist church. One of the projects we were to work on was to do some work on a dorm that the church provided for young men to reside in while they attended school in town. After many days of electrical work, painting and cleaning, the dorm was ready for these young men to reside in. One evening, as our group leader began to lead us in evening prayers, we heard the bounce of a ping-pong ball hitting a tennis table. We all could not help but smile. The residents of this dorm did not have to tell us they appreciated our work but we heard their appreciation through the sound of a game of ping-pong being played.
The holidays will soon be here which means my son, Drew and his wife, Megan will be coming in for a day or two to celebrate Christmas. One tradition that is sacred at hour house is Jim and Drew setting up the ping-pong table in the garage and challenging each other to a game or two. In the process of trick serves, twist and our black lab, Tori catching a few balls, this father/son/best friend duo will catch up on what is up at their offices, and University of Kentucky basketball.
Not only does Jim and Drew enjoy a game of ping-pong when Drew is home. But, Drew’s office has a room with a ping-pong table. It is used when there are blocks of creativity, and to possibly get to know someone better. As a matter of fact, Drew’s interview with his company included a game of ping-pong.
Each one of these scenarios of ping-pong represent something of importance. It is the importance of communication. It is in the serving the ball back and forth that conversation begins. Every now and then, there may be a pause in a game for the competitors to listen even closer to one another. When we talk with others, it is important that we share a little about ourselves and then let the other share about themselves. Out of this going back and forth, friendships are formed and relationships are nurtured.
God placed us here to not just be in relationship with Him but to be in relationship with others. It is in relationship with others that we are nurtured, learn more about the needs of others, and learn more about ourselves. In order to be in relationship with God and with others, we have to be willing to serve and then be served too.
Sometimes, some of us tend to be the ones who are always being served. When we are simply just served all the time without returning, we miss the blessings that God has in store of us by reciprocating to others. If we are not careful, we can become isolated not from God but from others. Just like in a game of ping-pong, if there is no one there to return the ball, there is no game and it quickly becomes old and dull.
Other times, some of us may the ones who are always serving but we don’t allow others to serve us. In other words, allow others to minister to us. Instead, we gladly do anything for anyone else but when we have a need, we tend to shut down and crawl into our own little cocoon. In not allowing others to serve us, we think we are sparing the other person or persons time that they may not have, or resources that they may not have. However, it can be just as insulting to someone when we refuse to be served just as it is when we don’t reciprocate when we are served. When we don’t allow ourselves to be served with a grateful heart, we also put ourselves in isolation from others. We miss out in the blessings that God has planned for us through the service of others.
There are two stories in the book of John of serving and returning the serve. In John 12, we read how Mary took the finest of perfumes and washed the feet of Jesus with the oil and her hair. The disciples felt that this act was needless and a waste of money. The disciples felt that the money used for the perfume should have been used for the poor. But, Jesus told the disciples to leave Mary alone. Jesus told them that this act of love and service was a part of His Father’s plan.
Then, we read over in John 13 where Christ and disciples are celebrating Passover. Today, we know it as Holy Communion. As the evening progresses, Jesus washes the feet of His disciples. Again, they questioned and could not understand why Christ was washing their feet. As we read on in the chapter, we see that Jesus explains why He has chosen to wash the feet of his followers. This was Christ’s example of how we are to give and receive with one another.
These are two beautiful stories of Christ teaching us how to serve and be served. Have you ever participated in a Foot Washing service? I have and it is very humbling. As the person washed my feet, I felt unworthy of this ministry to me but yet I saw grace, joy and blessing in the giver’s eyes. If I had not participated in this service as the receiver and giver, I would have missed growing in grace and the blessings God had for me that evening.
As we go through our days ahead, we need to remember to take time to serve and then be ready to be a receiver, too. In doing this, we begin building bonds of friendships and community of support. It is in serving the ball back and forth that we learn about the other person’s story, we minister to each other and experience God’s grace and blessings all the more.
So, how is your game of ping-pong being played. Are you allowing the ball being served to you? Are you returning the ball? Does your game need to improve one way or the other? As you go through the days ahead, think about how your game needs to improve and allow the grace of God work through you in serving others and in allowing others to serve you. I also encourage you to read John 12 and 13 in the days ahead. It is in this back and forth with others that we experience God’s grace and the blessings He has prepared for us.