Monday, August 31, 2015

The God of Surprises....and sports

There are very few surprises in life anymore. We live in an information age that allows us to know a heck of a whole lot—maybe even too much. This information overload can make it tough to be surprised, to encounter the unknown and live with the mystery. Sure, not all surprises are a welcome thing. Some are accompanied by sad news, a shock to our system or disbelief. But in general, when I speak of a surprise, it's something I associate with joy, elation and self-discovery. Indeed, life is still full of surprises. And thank God for it.

Surprises are both personal and communal. For example, in "Words with...Serena," in her cover issue of Sports Illustrated, the number one female tennis player is asked "Do you still have the capacity to surprise yourself?" She says "Oh, yeah. I've totally surprised myself. I never thought I would win another Serena Slam [four straight majors spread over two seasons, which she first accomplished in 2002-03]. Not even after the ['15] French Open. Especially not at 33." Tennis fans are thrilled she did. 
I would like to think that more than just a competitive spirit is what drives an athlete to stay in the game. Perhaps this capacity to surprise herself is what motivates Serena to work toward winning the Grand Slam this year (if she wins the US Open next week that prestigious distinction among tennis players is hers) or holding he most Grand Slam titles (she has 22. Margaret Smith Court has 24). What if she is capable of more? Why not surprise herself? her fans? athletes and the history of the game?! I for one, wait in suspense to know what will be. And if she wins the Open, will she be named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year? Will she share that honor with anyone else? TBD.

And many surprises are revealed and shared with others. I think back to my 27th birthday. I was in a very sad place. I felt as though I had nothing to celebrate. In my grief, my brother reached out in a way I could have never expected. He threw me a surprise birthday party. He totally got me. The joy that came with that surprise, trumped my sadness. Joy can do that.
So when a good surprise comes your way, it's worth sharing. The University of Notre Dame football team is very good at sharing a lot of information, but this one went viral for a reason. It offers a great foil, has a strong plot and includes many unsuspecting characters—the primary one being the beneficiary of a lot: recognition for his hard work, support from his teammates and a good, old fashioned dog-pile. Enjoy!

And next time you personally encounter a surprise, offer a prayer in gratitude or pray this one for others (from Ignatian Spirituality)
May the God of Surprises delight you, inviting you to accept gifts not yet imagined.
May the God of Transformation call you, opening you to continual renewal.
May the God of Justice confront you, daring you to see the world through God’s eyes.
May the God of Abundance affirm you, nudging you towards deeper trust.
May the God of Embrace hold you, encircling you in the hearth of God’s home.
May the God of Hopefulness bless you, encouraging you with the fruits of faith.
May the God of Welcoming invite you, drawing you nearer to the fullness of God’s expression in you.
May God who is Present be with you, awakening you to God in all things, all people, and all moments.
May God be with you.
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