We all face obstacles that sometimes seem insurmountable. I wonder just how David must have felt….before he threw the stone that dropped the giant in front of him. I’m not sure that I’ve ever had that kind of courage, but when I was a child, I learned a valuable lesson while sitting in front of a chess board. A lesson about overcoming obstacles that would echo throughout my life.
By the time I was 6 years old, I had a fairly good idea how the pieces on a chess board moved, and what the objective of the game was. But I couldn’t sit still long enough to play an actual game until I was about 11. It was at this time that I joined the chess club my dad belonged to.
When I joined the chess club, I had ulterior motives. Two of them to be exact. My first objective was to spend more time with my dad, who was somewhat of a chess addict. My second objective was to take care of my love of books. How fortuitous for me that the chess club happened to meet in the public library. Before chess practice started every Monday evening, I’d borrow as many books as the library would allow, until the next chess practice. I made my dad and my stepmother get library cards too, so I could borrow books on their cards as well. Twelve in total to be precise. Many a school night I’d be under the blankets with a flashlight and a book. At that time of my life, I often needed an escape, and books had the power to take me away.
Initially, chess practice turned out to be a real challenge. I didn’t seem to fit in that well. Why? I was a girl.
The only girl.
The first month or so, I felt like an outcast. Then one evening, I beat one of the boys… one of the older boys who’d been playing for a while. It wasn’t a process, acceptance was instantaneous; I’d earned my stripes.
After about 4 or 5 months, dad entered me into my first chess tournament. To me it was a big deal. The tournament was held in Soweto, and there were some very highly rated players attending, including the South African Junior Champion; Watu Kobese. I was very excited and couldn’t wait to see him play.
I didn’t expect to do very well myself but it was definitely an experience that I didn’t want to miss. As this was my first tournament I didn’t even have a rating yet. My first game was against a man that was about 50 years of age, with a fairly high rating. I distinctly remember the look that flashed across his face as I slid into my chair;
‘This is going to be easy’, it said. I was very nervous.
Dad had taught me some sound principles for playing the opening game and that made the first 10 or so moves fairly straightforward. I guess it caught my opponent off guard that, except for a small variation, I played the perfect textbook opening.
The variation was my dad’s, something that he’d taught me, and what my opponent saw as a mistake due to inexperience, soon turned into a full blown attack on his kingside. He underestimated me, and it cost him the game. To be honest, I underestimated myself and I ended up getting the prize at the end of the tournament for the best unrated player.
It taught me, an 11 year old at the time, a valuable life lesson. That facts could be deceiving. The facts said that as an inexperienced player, I had no chance. I should’ve lost, and yet I didn’t.
David never let the fact that he was facing a giant deter him. He ignored the facts that were staring him in the face, trusted God, and Goliath fell.
I often think of when Peter left the boat to meet Jesus on the water. The second he took his eyes off the Lord and looked at the stormy waters, he sank into the sea. Oh how true that’s been in my own life. If I stare into my problems, they often have the power to swallow me up. But when I hold firm in my faith, trusting that it’s the very foundation that holds me up, I can confidently face my problems with the knowledge that the Lord is with me, every step of the way.
My problems don’t necessarily go away just because I pray about them. David still had to meet Goliath on the battlefield. Even with prayer, I find that many times I must see a trial through to its end. The journey can be long, hard, painful and exhausting. The difference is that the Lord gives me strength, courage, and wisdom. He opens doors and lights the way. His teachings give me the direction I need to become victorious. And after every trial, I’m a little wiser, and my faith, that much deeper.