By Melissa Brogdon

Dodgeball, an iconic part of American culture, is both loved and played worldwide. Any American child who entered the public school system was exposed to the game either recreationally or through mandatory physical education requirements. Because I have always hated the game, I desired to understand the mind of the one who first developed it. What type of person creates a sport that’s main objective is to get children to physically assault one another using a large rubber ball, or as I like to call it, the red ball of shame? And ironically it is one of histories great mysteries; no one makes claim to the invention of dodgeball; and I am not surprised that there is no ownership to a sport that’s entire goal is take a person out by any means necessary, double points for head and ankle shots. As an adult I will not participate in our annual Christmas “snowball” fight due to the PTSD I have yet to recover from as a direct result of dodgeball. As a child if you were abnormally small or large, and socially awkward you had a target on your chest. There’s nothing more humiliating than taking a headshot in front of your peers while your educational authority figure looks on in delight, flinging high-fives as you limp out of the game. Traumatic is the kind of word I would use to describe this “sport”.

And here is what I was able to discover about the game of dodgeball. It originated somewhere in the late 19th century, where we first read mention of it from a book called, “The Boy’s Own Book”, written by William Russel. He describes the game as a division of two teams in which the goal is to strike opponents out with small, soft balls. In 1909, the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), adopted the sport as part of their physical education program and began organizing competitions between different YMCA’s. By the 1920’s the game had become a popular sport in most schools and universities. And now the sport can be viewed across the globe with numerous tournaments and leagues around the world.

Now you are probably wondering what godly lesson we can learn from the big red trauma ball and entering its circle of death. In the same way a player makes your chest their target and aims to take you out, God takes aim at our sin, yet his shot is thrown in love and His goal is never to shame but to transform. He tears down in order to build up. Anyone who’s taken a basic kinesiology lesson knows that when we strength train, several microscopic tears are formed within the fiber and connective tissue of the muscle which the body then seeks to repair. As a result of this process, the muscle is stronger and more resilient.

In Psalm 51:8, the psalmist David proclaims it is God who has allowed His sin to be exposed and he is now willing to enter into the painful restructuring of the heart. David shouts, “Let the bones that you have broken rejoice.” In verse 17, he pleads for mercy and yet acknowledges God would be fully justified in refusing his request. This is a psalm of confession, remorse, and repentance. David is finally understanding the depth of his sin, the consequences of his covetous eye. In Job 13:15, we see a different type of pain, the suffering servant Job declares “though He (God) slay me, I will trust in Him” here we see a man of God under immense pain and anguish, yet he looks to God for his justification and understands that in a broken land God is still sovereign.

God is not responsible for the wickedness of this world or our fallen nature and its subsequent curse. But as believers we must cling to the promise that everything filtered through our Savior’s hands will bend to His authority and be used for His glory and our good (Romans 8:28). We would be blessed to walk away from the game with a limp, just like Jacob, if only we dare not flee from God when life is painful, but instead engage, play the game out as Jacob did and wrestle with God while clinging to the promises of His Word.

Can we be as brave as Jacob in the circle of life, can we stand steadfast as Job and seek God under the crushing weight of life’s hardships? Can we wait as Jesus waited in the garden, in trust, through agonizing tears and still desire the will of God to supersede a cry for relief? Can we trust His narrative? Lean on His perspective? The only stance of a believer in the unknown is believing in the One who knows. Choose to hear the song He sings above us. Let the gospel message be your healing balm as you recall God’s Only Son was wounded, ridiculed, abandoned to die on a criminal’s cross. The only one worthy to fully withstand the wrath of His Father, who paid the price of our sin, completely innocent and yet He still whispered the words, “thy will be done.”

We could never endure this type of justice. We could never pay the cost of our own sin. But thanks be to God His Son could and did. And what we learn from His willingness is that great faith is needed to play the game of life. When we are asked to climb up on our own cross and die is where real change happens. The way of the cross is how resilient, deeply rooted, strong abiding faith grows. It is said the gift of faith is from God and how we use it is our gift back to Him. So I end with this: how will you use the great gift of faith?

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