U.S. Open Memories & Prevenient Grace

Back in July, I posted that Wimbledon is the most wonderful time of the year.

Actually, it’s the U.S. Open instead. The surroundings aren’t as picturesque, but there’s no trans-Atlantic time change to wrestle with.

Plus, hard courts are a truer test of greatness than grass. Or clay.

But with the U.S. Open in the middle of its first week, it makes me think of the two years in the mid 1980s when I worked for the US Tennis Association, the organization that runs the tournament. My title was “Coordinator of Recreational Tennis,” which meant that I was to work with parks and community centers to get tennis programs going in new venues. Our office was in Princeton, New Jersey.

As it turned out, the best part of my job back then was getting tennis accepted as an official sport with the Special Olympics International. I actually helped write a guide book on how to teach tennis to Special Olympians. Several years later, when I was serving as a pastor in Monroe, NC, I volunteered to teach Special Olympics tennis. The volunteer coordinator said, “Great! Here’s a guide book that will show you how to do it!” It was the one I’d written!)

Something else about my job with the USTA: it helped me sense a call into ministry. In my position, I learned how to manage projects, keep files, and organize events. They don’t teach any of that in college! I realized in 1987 that those skills I’d learned at the USTA would be essential in any kind of church work. That realization, along with some other things God was doing in my life at the time, led me to Asbury Seminary and ultimately to parish ministry.

So God was working in my life all along, even in ways I didn’t expect.

We Methodists call it “prevenient grace” — the grace that goes before. Look for it. It’s all around you.