Have you ever compared yourself with other athletes on your soccer or track or football team and decided you couldn't possibly match their physical strength, their speed, or their skills, so you might as well stay back and let them take the trophies? If you didn't stand a chance, why waste the effort?
When I was 9, I was a bit like that. I wasn't as tall or heavy or strong as most of the guys in my class. The trouble was I wasn't allowed just to hold back or play chess or take piano lessons instead. At our boys' school overseas, everyone had to play one of the main sports. In winter this was rugby, which is like American football, with hard tackles and shoulder charges. I could beat most of our star players at math or spelling or general knowledge, but that didn't lessen my fears of getting hurt on the rugby field by someone much stronger than I was.
So I asked my dad to help me. He admitted he hadn't been much good at football - or the piano - but I knew he was clued up about most other things. I also knew he was pretty close to God. I didn't understand how he and God had become such good pals, but I knew what that togetherness did for my dad. He never looked lost, or grouchy, or defeated by a problem.
So when I asked Dad about the football, he said, "We both need some help on this. We need a shove from Someone stronger than a whole team of rugby players."
"God?" I suggested.
"You've got it," he replied with a big grin. "Remember David and Goliath? Well, think of David as a flyhalf, and Goliath as a huge lock-forward determined to grind you into the turf." (In US football that would be like a quarterback facing up to a 300-pound linebacker who's out to sack him.)
"David outwitted Goliath by turning to God for help," said my dad. "And he did it with a sling and just one of five smooth stones he had brought with him in a small bag. He walked up to Goliath and bravely challenged him: 'You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty ... whom you have defied' " (I Sam. 17: 45, New International Version).
My dad explained that most of the soldiers who were watching saw only the giant. But David wasn't impressed by size. He saw only an outsize human being behaving foolishly by laughing at the power of God. David had already experienced that power when he had fought off a lion and a bear who had attacked his father's sheep.
Well, I wasn't really fighting giants on rival football teams - or wild animals - but, like David, I was skinny and not yet fully grown, and needed lots of help. So, every day I prayed to David's God - who is also my God - for the skills I needed to combine well with the other members of our team. I prayed for better anticipation on the field, quick thinking, balance, freedom of movement, sure handling of the ball.
Well, I didn't score more tries (touchdowns) than before, but I got lots of pats on the back for the assistance I gave to others - for opening up ways for them to score. Halfway through the season, I was made captain of that Under-10 team. Later, I captained the Under-12 team, and then the Under-14 school team.
So it wasn't the strength of my legs, my speed, my quick tackling, or the number of touchdowns that had impressed our coach. He said it was the way I played the game - and how I treated the guys on both teams.
Yes, I did face some Goliaths on the rugby field, but the "stones" I used to defeat them were actually good thoughts I had chosen carefully before each game. Sometimes I labeled them strength, or kindness, or unselfishness. Other times, tirelessness, preparedness, fearlessness. But the most effective stone in my imaginary bag was always the one I called love. And that never failed to bring me victory - even when the scoreboard told a different story.
Divine Love is our hope,
strength, and shield.
Mary Baker Eddy
(Founder of Christian Science)