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  • By Hannah Nesher

Get Back in the Game

I have never been big on sports. Growing up as a clumsy, socially awkward, slightly (okay, maybe more than slightly) chubby little Jewish girl, athletics was just not my thing. Being an introverted loner, I also did not like to play games. So I thought it strange that God spoke to me recently, saying,

It’s time to get back in the game.”

Game? What game? I hate games. But soon the message became clear. The question is, “Do you feel like you’ve been sitting on the sidelines of life?” I know I have. There are times when God, like a good coach, will yank a player out of the game when necessary and appropriate.

God is not necessarily giving us a ‘time out’ as a punishment. Having to sit on the sidelines for a period of time does not always mean that we are in the penalty box. It could very well be a much needed time to heal after a serious injury. Our time on the sidelines could be a merciful respite rather than an act of discipline.

We may be having an enforced rest rather than a mandatory detention. Even when we are not willing, the Good Shepherd will, at times, ‘make us’ to lie down in green pastures and rest beside still waters - for the purpose of restoring our soul.

After the death of my eldest son, Clayton, I just wanted to ‘sit out’ for awhile. I didn’t understand the rules of this ‘faith game’ anymore. In my understanding, I served a big and mighty God for whom nothing is impossible; a God who heals, saves and redeems – a God who answers prayer. But my son still died. So I didn’t want to play anymore….

And I think God understood this, so He agreed that I could simply sit on the sidelines of life while He worked on healing my broken mother's heart. I sat in the bleachers, watching the game, not really all that interested anymore in which team was winning or losing (or who was even playing in the game).

Then we moved back to Israel - to a small, quiet, peaceful village where nothing ever really happens. Perfect for someone who wants to hide from life. We found a house at the end of a dead end street – at the edge of a nature reserve overlooking the Judean mountains. Miles and miles of trees and hills and valleys and vast open blue skies.

Finally, I had the time to sit on my balcony, listen to bird songs and watch sunsets.

So what else did I do during this time in Israel? Not much…. Cooking, housework, cleaning floors and toilets, shopping for groceries, running errands, driving kids and grandchildren to and from their various lessons.

Winter came and passed; spring arrived and with it hundreds of pretty butterflies as they migrated through our Middle Eastern Village. I watched them flit around our lavender bushes along with the occasional metallic blue hummingbird.

Photo by Liat Nesher www.liatnesher.com

Photo by Liat Nesher www.liatnesher.com

I seemed to have nothing better to do. Israel is a male-dominated country (even in the Messianic community) such that no one was beating a path to my doorway, and certainly no invitations showed up in the mail. Churches and congregations are mostly small compared to Western countries; and they have their own men to preach the Word.

And anyways, what could I tell people to encourage them in their faith when my own had taken such a beating? So I did what I could – mostly just helping out with the ‘oneg’ – the light meal we shared as a congregation after Shabbat services. For someone who had led Messianic congregations and shared the Word of God in nations around the world, it was a humbling experience. I felt like I was on a spiritual time-out.

Then I had another hip replacement surgery and even these mundane tasks were taken away from me as I recovered. Two weeks later, my daughter also moved away from home to take a position with another ministry in a different city. It was time for her to fly out of our cozy eagle's nest on her own two wings. Although I was happy for her and thankful for this blessing, I missed her terribly. She had been my primary prayer and ministry partner, worship leader, and my #1 biggest fan. She was not only my daughter; but also a beloved friend to laugh with over all our silliness and a shoulder to cry on in times of sorrow.

Liat flies from the eagle's nest

Instead of feeling the freedom of a rapidly emptying nest, I began to feel bored, lonely, restless and dissatisfied. Although physically I was feeling stronger each day as my body healed from the surgery, my life began to seem empty and meaningless. As God ministered healing and comfort to my heart during our quiet times together, I began to long for something more.... It almost felt like the faint stirrings of a desire to get back into the game of life.

On the rare times I would watch a Canadian hockey game, I could see that the players who had been taken out of the game always seemed so eager to get out of the box and get back into the game. Something inside of them just wanted to participate in the action – even though it would likely mean some bumps and bruises - perhaps even serious damage.

Same for the kid on the baseball team who has to sit out on the bench game after game; it becomes dull and boring when one can only watch but cannot play. How dejected he looks as he sits and kicks at the dirt under his bench; how his face lights up when the coach sends him back in.

I think that God has created us this way – with a deep desire to participate in the game of life. We may want to sit out for a season; but eventually this longing will spring up again; like a well of living water, bubbling up, seeking for expression – to share, to create, to be a blessing to our community and our world – to make a difference.

We never know how long we will be sitting on the sidelines until our ‘coach’ puts us back in the game. God gave Moses a very long l time –out. After he killed an Egyptian slave master for striking a Hebrew slave, Moses fled Egypt and ended up on the back side of nowhere for forty years – 40 years! Now that's an extreme time out! It almost seems like cruel and unusual punishment.

What did Moses do during that time? Not much…. Tended his father – in-law’s sheep. Not even his own sheep, mind you, but his father in law’s sheep. A humble position indeed. Maybe a step up from ‘oneg helper’ but not by much.