“Hey, how about we get the boys a ping-pong table for Christmas?” my wife asked me on the phone, her first words after saying “hello.” Erica doesn’t waste a lot of time in conversation, and being a big fan of the game, I didn’t waste any time agreeing. This would be a great gift for me… I mean, the boys. No seriously, it’s totally for them (me). The plan was in motion, and several days later we found a nice used table for sale. But a 9’x5’ footprint doesn’t exactly fit under the tree — or anywhere else for that matter! We had no choice but to surprise the boys early, and then play hours of storage-bin Tetris in our crowded basement to accommodate this new pursuit.
** Two weeks later ** The early gift has been a huge success for the whole family… except for the one caveat that haunts virtually all home ping-pong arenas. As a general rule, the ball frequently exits the playing area in a random direction and comes to rest in the most vexing location in the room. We hear just a few quick bounces before it dribbles into the smallest, tightest, most difficult-to-reach nook or corner – usually underneath something we’re destined to hit our heads on. If Sir Isaac Newton had a table in his 17th century garage, he certainly would have put forward an additional law of motion to explain this phenomenon.
Well, of all things, watching the ball disappear again and again made me think about the account of Jonah – and I wondered: what is our response, as believers, when God puts us into play? Do we stay on the table, or do we fly off in a random direction and find a place to hide? Remember Jonah’s reaction when God first called him to go to Nineveh? He flew off the table. His response was to climb aboard a ship and head in a random direction. Jonah 1:5 (NKJV) says he had even “gone down into the lowest parts of the ship” — surely an attempt to find that most-difficult-to-reach corner in his world.
Back to the basement… one of our solutions to the ball dilemma was to simply buy a whole bunch of balls. If we lost one, or if it was too hard to reach, we’d just pull out another ball and keep playing. It seemed like a great idea at first, but there was one big problem: we used up our resources quickly, and now a bunch of perfectly good balls remain hidden and unusable somewhere in that room.
This is a great illustration of what happens when Christians fail to stay in the action. Volunteers become scarce and options become limited. I wonder how many usable Christians are “lost in the room” right now? God has given them great potential, but they’ve nestled into a little corner, and it’s almost impossible to reach them for action. Let’s look for these useful believers and encourage them to get back in the game — and let’s stay active and involved ourselves as well.
Romans 11:29 — For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.
– Ron Reid