Keeping your eye on the ball

I’m feeling very proud because this year I’ve acquired a brand new skill, something most people learn when they’re an awful lot younger – I have finally learnt to catch.

An only child, who lived a distance from school and didn’t have friends nearby, I never had anyone to practise with so when netball teams were picked or tennis partners chosen, I was the one left standing on the sidelines. It’s a very tragic story!

Now my sons have taken it upon themselves to teach me those skills I’ve been lacking and, with great patience and dedication they have got me catching more balls than I miss. The secret, which I knew in theory but never previously practised, is to keep your eye on the ball. It turns out shutting your eyes as an object hurtles towards you is a bad strategy.

Recently our Sunday Gospel told of Jesus walking on water, through the storm, and Peter trying and failing to walk out to meet him. Dear old Peter, always the one to go into something feet first, says; ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water’, and promptly gets out of the boat. His courage doesn’t last long, because he is suddenly keenly aware of the strong wind and turbulent waves. He stops looking at Jesus and instead notices all the other forces which surround him. Fear wells up and he begins to sink. What has Peter done? He has taken his eye off the ball.

As soon as he cries out; ‘Lord, save me’, Jesus reaches out his hand and catches him. Jesus has not become distracted. His gaze is still firmly on Peter and his hand is ready for the catch.

Amidst the turmoil of daily life it’s easy to let our attention shift from the God who loves us. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the worries and demands that batter us like winds and waves; but even when we take our eyes off God, God never takes his eyes off us. He is always there for us to reach out to him – ‘Lord, save me!’ God is always there for us, ready to catch us, to hold us.

Someone once defined prayer as simply this: ‘I look at God and God looks at me’. If we can manage, even for a few moments each day, to fix our gaze towards him we will find he is looking back at us – with love.

Just keep your eye on that ball.

Revd Kate McFarlane