Last weekend, my husband and I had the supreme honor of attending our 4-year-old nephew’s soccer game. It was as hilarious and adorable as you would expect from a gaggle of 4-year-old soccer players—they were running into one another, tripping over their own feet, or standing totally still while staring at the sky for the entire game. I loved it. I love 4-year-old soccer players. (As a proud aunt, I must include that my nephew is legitimately talented at soccer and played a really impressive game, scoring several points! I’m beaming still.)
Aside from my nephew, the player I loved most was a little blonde boy on my nephew’s team. He didn’t necessarily have the most finely tuned skills, but I could totally relate to his strategy.
Every time my blonde buddy got the ball, he made a beeline for the goal. The one little problem is that he went towards the wrong goal—every time. His teammates, coach, and fans would scream, “WRONG WAY!!!” but he was so deeply determined to get to that goal (any goal, really) that he couldn’t comprehend the chorus of sound advice being sung to him.
You guys, I love this so much. I love my blonde buddy who scored countless points in the opposing team’s goal. I GET YOU, BLONDE BUDDY. Because of course you’d make a run for the opposing team’s goal whenever you gained control of the ball. No one is there to stop you! The defense can be so annoying, complicating the entire scoring mission. He just wanted to avoid traffic and get the ball into the goal, which is, after all, the entire point of the game (to the extent he understood it).
It’s so tempting to take the easy way out—to go in the wrong direction, whether you know it’s wrong or not, because you see a way to bypass some barriers. I understand that; barriers are no fun and reaching a goal is so fun.
Although my blonde buddy was able to avoid a line of defense, he didn’t have anyone else with him on offense. He was on his own, which may have been fine since he was capable of reaching the goal untouched, but the aftermath of his “goal” was nothing like he’d want it to be. He was alone on one side of the field, with no one to high five or to celebrate with. And that was actually the least of his worries because he also didn’t have anything to celebrate. His goal, of course, would not count, and possession of the ball would go to the other team.
If my blog posts had sound effects, this is where I would insert a gigantic: WOMP, WOMP.
Here’s the thing: Opposition is not all bad. In fact, sometimes barriers are one of the few indicators we have that we are going in the right direction. If we make it to “the” (our) goal without any obstacles, maybe we need to reconsider whether or not we’re aiming for the correct goal. Certainly, if we make it to our goal and don’t have anyone around to help us celebrate, then we very well may have taken a wrong turn somewhere.
A couple of weeks ago, I began training for my second half-marathon. I have since taken a week and a half off from training, but that’s another story for another time.
On day two of my training, we were experiencing a particularly windy day here in my little space on the globe. I mean, really windy, with some occasional rain showers to sweeten the deal. Being the dedicated runner that I was for that one week, I decided to get out there and do my three-mile run for the day.
In a word, the experience was TERRIBLE. For much of the run, I was running against the wind, causing my eyes to tear without ceasing and, consequently, blinding me. I was painfully out of breath, which is ironic considering the amount of air rushing towards my body, and I somehow picked the most uphill route in all of my typically flat, midwestern state.
I was miserable. But I also know that day of training made me stronger—not only physically, but mentally, too. It wasn’t a run going slightly downhill on a sunny and wind-free day, but the elements—the defensive line, if you will—forced me to work harder and with more determination in order to reach my goal for that day.
Challenges are what strengthen us, increase our need for people who are on our team, and make the moments when we reach our goals much more worthwhile. If we cheat or take the easy way out, our triumphs will be watered down, if not totally nullified.
I love the people who were yelling at my blonde buddy to turn around and go the other way. He didn’t listen (Because he’s 4, still learning the game, and just wanted to score a goal, gosh dang it!), but he has those people looking out for him and I hope we all do, too.
We need strong voices on the field and cheering for us from the sidelines—people who are all the way for us. We need the voices of those who will run with us towards the defensive line or strong winds, and those who will stand to the side, offering us encouragement and holding our water bottle. We need the voices that will alert us when we’re heading in the wrong direction, and urge us to turn around, even if it means we have to move into hardship.
Know who those voices are for you—the voices of people who are on your team. Listen to them, trust them, and let them run with you towards the goals that sit just beyond the barriers.