durant-press-conferenceWhy did you do that?”

I have often wondered what it would be like to be a professional athlete and sit in front of a table full of microphones and be asked that question over and over again… about everything.

“Why did you call that play at that time?” “Why did you throw the ball there?” “Why did you run there instead of there?”

“Why did you wear THOSE socks?”

Can you imagine going through your day having your every move and decision scrutinized by people intent on finding your slightest error or omission?

I’m not sure many of us would hold up very well under that kind of close examination.

On the other hand… if you have been a parent you discovered long ago that your children are busy around the clock, carefully analyzing and dissecting your every move and syllable. We parents know this because we regularly see some of our worst words and behaviors mirrored back to us by charming miniature versions of ourselves. We often catch ourselves scowling at them and starting to say, “Where on earth did you pick THAT up?”

But before the entire sentence is spoken, clarity dawns. We know exactly where they picked it up.

In the presence of these impressionable children, it seems our most telling episodes occur when we are responding “in the moment”… without the benefit of thoughtfulness or planning. Something happens… an emotion is triggered… we react/respond… it’s over.

Later we look back on those moments with the awareness that in that single, eyeblink flash of time we either demonstrated character and virtue or we didn’t. We either built someone up or we helped tear them down. We either acted with integrity or we cut a moral and/or ethical corner.

It’s different when we have time. When we have the luxury of being able to see a situation, look carefully at every angle, consider all the possible responses, visualize their outcomes, and slowly, cautiously plot our response, we have a much better chance of getting it right.

Most of the time though, the luxury of that kind of time is not available to us. Just like the third-baseman or the middle linebacker or the point guard… the thing happens in a heartbeat and we are called to respond.

That is why athletes practice. They practice in order to build up what they call “muscle memory”: the ability to instantaneously make the right move in the moment, without the need for all that analyzing, pondering, and planning. It all just happens reflexively.

So what do you think; can we find anything like a spiritual equivalent of “muscle memory” to aid us in responding to life’s “hot grounders”? Can we build up something within us like an innate ability to – if not play error-free ball – at least do as little damage as possible in the process?

I think we absolutely can. I believe this is the intent of the things we call spiritual disciplines… disciplines such as prayer, worship, meditation, studying the scriptures, fasting, holy conferencing to name a few. They are not meant to be matters of obligation or hobbies to occupy us for the time being. They are intended to shape our hearts and minds. They are intended to mold our responses to those “in the moment” situations that we bump into every day.

Usually at the end of a game or a season an athlete can look back and recall one or two pivotal moments when the right (or wrong) reflex made all the difference in the final outcome.

As we each live, we are not playing a game or keeping score. But it is still worth regularly stopping to ask ourselves the question: what outcome am I training for?

1 Response to “FACING THE MUSIC”

  1. October 26, 2016 at 3:47 am

    Spiritual muscle memory. I love it.

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