Been There, Done That

I am having a hard time focussing. I'm in Reno for a tournament, hanging out with my girl friends. I should be a little bit anxious. It would be better if I were a little bit anxious. But I'm not. Not yet, and that makes me worried. Not, mind you, worried enough to start getting my head down and getting ready for the bouts. Just worried enough to try to write something before my roommate and I pack up and go to the venue.
 
But I don't have anything to say. I've been here now, pre-event, over and over and over again. I know what I can control and what I can't. Not that that means that, if I don't fence well this afternoon, I will be all hunky-dorey about it. I'm sure I won't be (we all remember Milwaukee, right?). But I'm not scared like I used to be about having to prove something about my fencing as such. (Is that true? Double-checking...I could be deceiving myself.)
 
Today's fencing is today's fencing. I slept relatively well last night. I don't have a headache, thank goodness. We don't have to start until after noon, which helps me immensely (I am no good at early morning starts). My equipment checked out, and I have taken my two favorite foils to have their tips fixed. Once I get to the venue in an hour or so, there will be plenty of time to stretch and warm up. So there's nothing to worry about, right?
 
I wish that I could be sure about that. It was pretty embarrassing losing it so badly in December. I have given up for the time being on having a notebook, but I do have pool sheets printed out so that I can keep track of the bout order and double-check the director's score-keeping at the end of the pool. There could be triggers I am not aware of, lurking, ready to jump out at me. I might stay too sleepy and relaxed and not be keyed up enough by the time the pools start.
 
Okay, that helped: I just searched back on my blog to see if I had used the same post title before. I have, twice, once back in March 2010, when once again, I was standing looking at the podium taking pictures of my friends. There, look, there they all are: my roommate for this tournament, one of the other women whom we had dinner with last night, my good friend Badger. I know all of these women, I know how they fence, I know how strong they are. And they know me, how I fence, how strong I am. Or have been. Some of them I have beaten before, some of them I now know that I fence better against than I used to. But I still don't feel strong enough to beat them consistently. I don't know what I can do today.
 
I should pray--but for what? Richard Leonard SJ has a great take on the way in which Christians often pray these days, particularly in petitionary prayer. "Why bother praying," he asks rhetorically, "to a God who [as Christians believe] does not change? When we pray," he answers, "we are asking our holy, loving, and unchanging God to change us, and thereby change the world." This is not the way, he goes on, many Christians today pray, however. Rather, he suggests, they pray not "to the God and Father of Jesus Christ, but to Zeus."
 
Why Zeus? "Zeus was the king of all the Greek gods and was in charge of the skies and thunder, and so was Olympus' resident meterologist... Zeus...[was] not an easy god with whom to get along. Though he could be loving and kind, he was more famous for being moody and unpredictable. When his ire was raised he killed, maimed, punished and handed other gods and mortals over to be tortured in a variety of exotic ways. Life with Zeus was unpredictable." So what did one do? Offer penance, prayer, and sacrifice in the hope of getting on his good side. After all, if one didn't, then everyone knew what kinds of punishment he would (sometimes literally) rain down upon them.
 
This is not the God to whom Christians are supposed to be praying, a God who withholds blessings until we pray correctly, often, and sincerely enough. Our God makes no bargains, He only forgives. He is not moody or unpredictable, He has told us exactly what He wants us to do (love Him and each other), and He himself suffers when we do otherwise. He doesn't test us or expect us to be perfect, nor will He love us any more (or less) if we fall short. He is simply there, our shelter and refuge, waiting for us to turn back to Him.
 
I want to pray to Zeus. I want to be able to have done all the right things to guarantee a certain outcome. Slept well, have all my equipment ready, gotten my head in exactly the right space. But I'm Christian, so I know, too, that this won't work. God doesn't care whether I win today or even whether I fence well. I am pretty sure that He wants me to do as well as I can and will (as Eric Liddell so famously put it) take pleasure when I use the strength He gave me to move and fence.
 
But God does not hand out victories and medals. Nor does He withhold them. God is not about success or failure. I was about to say, "only trying," but I don't think that that is right either. God gave us the freedom to take real risks, which is why He does not step in like an over-protective parent to shield us from disappointment or frustration. He wants me out there, on the strip, possibly ending up in a puddle, not because He likes seeing me in a puddle, but because...because that is the only way that I will grow. Yes, I think that that is closer.
 
I have grown so much in the past four and a half years since I started keeping this blog, it would be against reason to even suggest that God has not answered my prayers. He has--over and over and over again. Every time I got back on the strip to fence another bout, every time I cried, every time I laughed. He has been there, with me, wanting me to try again. And look what blessings He has showered on me, what a record of success I have had these past several years, and not only on the strip. Getting my writing back. Finding my Joy. Learning how to feed myself properly. Allowing myself at long last to learn to play the music that I love.
 
So should I pray for things to be as difficult as possible today? That I should be pushed to my limits so that I can discover that they are only steps on the way to accomplishing things that I never imagined I could achieve? Let's see. It's time to go now.
 

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