Studying educational leadership recently I came across this quote by Bourdieu:
‘Nothing is simultaneously freer and more constrained than the action of a good player. He quite naturally materialises at just the place the ball is about to fall, as if the ball were in command of him – but by that very fact, he is in command of the ball.’
Here Bourdieu is describing the dynamic that exists between the learned and unlearned in sport, that with a high level of training and ability one exhibits such talent that his sporting ability seems ‘natural.’ Of course it isn’t. It is the result of countless hours of practice and skill development, practicing them at the micro level and moving through them sequentially until at some point they are executed in combination.
Who’s in control?
It is a fantastic analogy, though when I read it I couldn’t help but think of it in terms of God and the way that he is in control, since so often I’ve tried to explain, to justify to myself, how God is in control of my own life. This I think, an apt metaphor—that God is the soccer player, skilful enough to control the ball without seeming to deliberately. When the ball lands right where God has pronounced that it should, it can seem as though the ball were ‘the master of its fate’ to borrow from William Ernest Henley, (Invictus, 1919), but by that same token, the credit ought even more so, to go to God.
Boundaries in pleasant places
We all know those people, for whom the boundaries fall in pleasant places. Recently, after surfing in North Bondi all day I came home and described to my wife how seeing the houses on the point and the people sitting on their balconies in the middle of the day, I wanted us to consider how we might also achieve such obvious success.
“We have” was my wife’s immediate reply and she went on to remind me of exactly how much God has done in our lives recently and continues to do as we honour him with our lives. You see, I myself am such a ball which lands seamlessly on the foot of the man. The boundaries continue to fall in pleasant places for me, to the point that people can justify those lines if they try, but I am certain it is God. In his sovereignty, God executes with such precision a plan, which to outsiders must look as though it is outworking itself—only the ball knows it is not in control.
‘Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.’
Matthew chapter 6 verse 34 (The Message Version)
Trusting the man with the ball
The man with the ball is willing and able and he has your best interests at heart. In this world we will face trouble but Jesus declared that he has already overcome the world, and therefore we have nothing to fear. Recently I received news that an ex-student of mine has cancer. How can we rationalise that in relation to a good God who loves us?
“He has lost control of the ball,” we say.
“He kicked it out deliberately.”
“The man is not in control of the ball,” we rationalise, and as true as it seems, I believe in a loving father who wants only good things for his children.
Whether cancer or poverty or family breakdown, God is in control of the ball and he will work all things for the good of those who love him and are called to his statutes.
Of course if the man doesn’t have the ball, he can’t be in control of it.
That part’s up to you.
David Luschwitz is an English Teacher in Sydney’s South West.
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