A few days ago, I competed in my first international tennis tournament in Nairobi, Kenya, and I’m happy to say, I am undefeated in international play. However, this moment almost never happened. A few years ago, I quit tennis. I was absolute that I’d never compete in a tennis tournament again. I’d just lost a match in a local tournament and didn’t feel the drive and passion that I’d once had for the sport. For months, I didn’t step on a tennis court. I watched my dad and little sister continue to play, and sometimes I’d get the urge to join them, but my resolve to never play tennis again remained.
One day I heard a still small voice say to me, Don’t quit. This your gift.
I didn’t understand. How could this sport be my gift? I certainly wasn't gifted in tennis anymore at this point. I was overweight and out of shape, and I’d been on a losing streak since before I quit. And I had no desire to ever play tennis again. Who could I possibly share this gift with? Yet, the voice grew louder, and I couldn’t ignore it any longer. After months of not playing tennis, I joined a team and played competitively once again. Since then, I’ve played off and on, winning some and losing some, but now I know it was more than just competing in tennis that God was calling me towards.
In 2012, I traveled to Nairobi to teach tennis in the slum of Kibera. Tennis was just the vehicle The Lord used to allow me to travel to this country and meet these amazing people. Now as I call this place my home, I am so grateful for how God orchestrated this journey from the very first time I picked up a tennis racquet until now.
Every afternoon as we make the hike to Kibera, I hear the same still small voice urging me on: Don't quit. This is your gift. And when I’m surrounded by little, smiling faces, I realize I am the one receiving the gift, not giving it. This is a sweet gift of love and affection, a gift of unbridled joy and excitement, a gift of courage and bravery facing challenging conditions, a gift of unselfishness and humbleness, a gift that speaks volumes into my soul and brings light into my heart. I receive so much more from these kids than I could have ever imagined when I first stepped foot in Kenya 3 years ago. I thank God for this sweet precious gift that He has given me.
When I think about all the times I "quit" playing tennis, but heard God urging me forward, I understand it now. When he says, Don't quit. This is your gift. I press forward to receive the prize He is calling me towards.