My daughter’s favorite sport used to be tetherball. It is highly competitive and can be challenging particularly for someone who is shorter than most of her opponents. This game requires intense focus on repeatedly whacking the ball in one direction while your opponent is trying to hit it in the opposite direction. The goal is to wrap the cord, which is attached to the ball, around and around the pole until the ball hits the pole. When one player gains the upper hand, things can spin to an abrupt end!
Life can feel like a game of high-stakes tetherball, especially when we are constantly fighting an opposing force or the passage of time as we continuously try to “beat the ball soundly towards the goal.”
I at times have felt rather like the tetherball – being knocked back and forth by two (or more) strong forces with little if any say on what is going on.
I have come to believe the secret to living a more relaxed and correctly focused life is to become untethered. How often are we allowing others to beat us down, or letting their actions, opinions, and feelings spin our lives out of control? How frequently are we obsessed with knocking past the opposition to reach a selfish or unimportant goal?
In order to get free from undue stress and live an untethered life, we must acknowledge that we cannot force others to endorse our dreams or callings. Nor should we be manipulated or controlled by the expectations or “demands” of others. It is impossible to be unaffected or completely apathetic about what others think of us, and I’m not suggesting we stop caring about the feelings of others. What I am saying is this: To live free and productive lives we have to follow our own dreams and answer to God alone.
As I gain clarity about the person God made me to be and my unique callings, I no longer need to allow anyone to define me. This makes it easier to hold onto family and friends with an open embrace, not needing their approval or “permission” to be true to myself.
So many of the struggles I see my clients engaged in are unnecessary and distracting. One man is still trying to justify his existence by proving to family and friends that they have misjudged him. A woman I have counseled constantly fights to prove that she is lovable in the face of frequent rejection. All of us occasionally attempt to prove our point or force others to validate our opinions, but – when we know that God sees our heart and understands our every need – it is easier to let go of that relentless need to ‘drive the ball towards the goal.’
Fritz Pearls used to say, “Stop pushing the river – it flows by itself.” I believe when we trust God to take us where he wants us, we can stop playing competitive ‘games’ and be real with one another. Free from manipulation and control, our lives can be filled with rest and meaningful work and play. Like a ball released from its cord, you can float along the stream of life in peace, letting God bring you home – untethered.