Every class has the fat kid, the misfit, the one last chosen for every team, the one too clumsy to run a race, too scared to dive and too uncoordinated to hit the ball. That kid was yours truly, and I spent most of my time in gym class fervently praying the world would end so my turn wouldn’t come.
Bad enough the kids made fun of me, but the teachers didn’t help my sorrowful situation either. I can still picture Mrs. Fischer, our sixth-grade coach who was quite hugely pregnant but still more graceful when jogging and more precise when swinging a bat than I would ever be.
And I still recall, with chills of horror, coaches standing behind me and bellowing, “Follow through!”
You see, whatever the sport was, I failed to execute the graceful sweeping motion that is supposed to complete the arc. I had good intentions, but my arm always stopped dead in its tracks.
Not surprisingly, I gave up on sports years ago, but recently I heard the dreaded words again.
Frankly, my blood ran a bit cold when I heard Father Dennis Dorner Jr. — a young priest fresh from seminary — utter the very words that had haunted my childhood. I relaxed, however, once I realized his homily had nothing to do with swinging a bat or decimating bowling pins.
Instead, he talked about the times we feel a fervent impulse to do something we know deep in our hearts would be good. The inspiration often means ditching some habit that’s dragging us down spiritually speaking.
In that moment, when we feel God nudging us, we are eager to spring into action.
This could mean paring down the hours spent toning up our muscles at the gym — and playing games with the kids instead. It could be cutting back on Facebook and using the time to pray. Or digging a bit deeper to help the poor.
But then lethargy returns and the inspiration fizzles out. We assure ourselves we’ll change — but not right now.
We’ll get serious about our prayer life once our job calms down. Visit the sick as soon as the basement is finished. Be more generous to the poor once we take this next little cruise.
In short, instead of following through, we stumble and fall — and end up missing the mark by a mile.
This happens to me all the time. I’ll be heading to the chapel to pray, but somehow my car drives to the mall instead. I’ll say I’m going to read the Bible, but that new mystery starts clamoring for attention.
When an inspiration strikes, too often I roll over in bed and mutter, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” And somewhere in the distance, I swear I hear the devil cackling with delight.
For some folks, tomorrow never comes. They miss the chance to dust off their Bibles, head to church and get down on their knees and pray. They never get to forgive their enemies, help their neighbors and do all the other good deeds they’ve been putting off for years.
As for me, I have a game plan for the next time I start making excuses. I’m going to picture my guardian angel as a heavenly coach — complete with wings, of course — standing behind me, urging me on.
And perhaps if I take his advice, I’ll one day echo the words of St. Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” In other words, I followed through!
Columnist Lorraine V. Murray, a former college instructor, has written five books on religion plus two mysteries. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website is www.lorrainevmurray.com.