Life on the Big Green Ball

In early 2009, I traded in my then-desk chair for a big, green exercise ball.

There are studies that show an improvement in student performance when they sit on the balls instead of chairs. I've also read about the health benefits of better posture, stronger abs, and a more playful approach to work. My friend, Meredith, was the person who inspired me to make the trade to a bouncing seat. She called me one day and said "My co-worker reminds me of you. She sits on a ball at work."

Chuckling, I asked her why, and she said, "That just seems like something you would do."

While there are probably many folks who have exchanged chairs for exercise balls over the years, I didn't personally know anyone who did. So I decided to try it out. Four years later, I'm still sitting on the big, green exercise ball.

And yes, my posture feels good, my abs are stronger, and I do bounce up and down on it on more stressful days. But the big green ball has had its share of casualties. Once, soon after I got it, I forgot that there was nothing to catch me if I leaned back--except the floor on which I toppled. I've lost count of the times I start to sit down and it slips away, leaving me thumping onto the floor while the ball rolls away. This happened so much that people within hearing distance quit asking if I were okay. They knew to come help only if they heard an "OW!" instead of an "OOPS!" The exercise ball chair has led to a number of corny jokes, my most favorite being the person who used to come by and say, "Preacher, are you 'on the ball' today?" (I'll give you time to giggle right now before reading on... or am I the only person who loves such jokes?).

My most vivid memory of life on the big green ball occurred later in 2009. The two-year-old granddaughter of the church secretary would come to my office most afternoons. Normally, she would play with the children's sermon "object" of the week: a baby Jesus, a deck of cards, or anything else that closely resembled a "toy." One day, she apparently decided that the options were not appealing. She came over to me, slapped both hands on my "chair" and declared, "GREEN BALL!"

I affirmed her by saying, "Good job! You know your colors and shapes."

She stared at me, slapped again, and repeated, "GREEN BALL!"

Clueless in the ways of children, I said, "Yes, that's right. It's a ball, and it's green. And it's my chair."

Finally, she yelled, "MY GREEN BALL!" She started trying to push it out from under me. For a toddler, she was very strong, so I got a little concerned. I stood up, and she immediately rolled the ball out in the hallway and tried to "bounce" it down to her grandmother's office. What I saw as a chair, she saw as a toy. What I used for better posture, she used for her imagination. She couldn't understand why I wanted to sit on something that, in her eyes, was meant for play.

Sometimes we look at life's issues, and Scripture interpretation, in the same way the little girl and I saw the green ball. I saw it as having one purpose: to hold me up at my desk. She could only see the potential for fun. Neither of us were wrong in what we saw. What would be wrong is if I said to her, "This ball is only a desk chair. It has no other purpose but what I want it to be!"

Whether we are interpreting Scripture or talking about sensitive issues in life (e.g. abortion, capital punishment, gay rights, etc.), we face the temptation to look at the topic at-hand one way & one way only. We convince ourselves that our perspective is the right one. There's nothing wrong with being confident. The problem enters when our confidence is void of humility. When we are so sure that "we" are right and "they" are wrong, we open ourselves up to a condescending pride. The writer of James warns us to avoid such an attitude when he writes, "Are any of you wise and understanding? Show that your actions are good with a humble lifestyle that comes from wisdom" (3:13). Or, as musician Paul Thorn sings in a more modern reality check, "You could be right / You might be wrong."*

I'm not asking us necessarily to change our opinions or interpretations. What I challenge us to think about is how we approach one another's perspectives. Sometimes we push and shove like the two-year old with the green ball, trying to force others to believe the way that we do. At other times we're clueless like the preacher-woman sitting on the green ball, not understanding what one another is saying. Instead, why don't we relax and listen to each other? Why don't we seek to gain wisdom through conversation with each other and God instead of getting angry when others don't think exactly the same way we do?

Do you exhibit a "humble lifestyle that comes from wisdom?" It's possible for all of us to do so with the help of God and each other. Thanks be to him who does not lose patience with us even though we get frustrated with ourselves and one another. May we strive to live life on this big green ball of earth in harmony with each other, as Jesus Christ illustrated in his sacrificial, humble life and death.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

* To hear Paul Thorn sing, "You Might Be Wrong," click on this link: http://youtu.be/IFRM4oJwLdc

You might like it; you might not. You might agree with some of the lyrics; you might not. But let us listen with humility--and humor!