Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Art of “Hitting the Target”

When we’ve been at a game and seen someone take a great catch, make a key 3-point shot, or picked up a spare ourselves, we’ve not only done what we set out to achieve (or seen it done), we’ve done it in the pressure of the moment--we feel exhilarated. I heard the opposite of this recently when it was remarked that Michael Clarke would hit the stumps seven times out of ten, yet he’d missed on this particular occasion--he ‘missed the mark.’

In all sports there’s the obvious objective… we like to hit a target. Why do successful sporting performances feel so good?

It’s because we’ve met the objective in each case; we’ve mastered the game and as such have reaped increased confidence. We replay the event in our minds and this releases lovely chemicals into our brains.

At times this confidence escapes us, but not this time--we nailed it!

It should be no surprise that there’s a spiritual principle at play here. If the catch was dropped; if the 3-pointer was missed; if we totally missed picking up the spare, we’ve ‘missed the mark.’

In ancient biblical tradition there are two words, one Hebrew and one Greek, which highlight this principle, the principle of sin. Chata’ and hamartano both “mean the act and the consequences of the act [i.e. the result]” of missing the mark.[1] There are around nine hundred instances of this version of sin occurring in the Bible.

Sporting analogies might be easy targets for this theology and thinking, but all of life’s objectives apply in basically the same way.

We have known objectives and we either work hard to achieve them, or we lazily and carelessly miss the mark required of us--this is none more so noticeable than in our personal relationship outcomes.

When connecting ‘missing the mark’ with the contemporary idea of ‘sin’ (though they’re intrinsically linked in any event) we have to acknowledge the following:

“Some consciousness [of missing the mark] is essential if confession [toward amends] is to be made. But it implies an awareness of what is expected and the conviction that one’s best efforts have failed to achieve it.”[2]

There are times when we do try our best and we still miss the mark. And we at least can make amends for those times when our best efforts have failed and we’ve missed the mark.

The solace is this: if we grasp the learning opportunity and the consequences of our actions with both hands, we stand to learn. Life is really an elaborately set-up series of opportunities to learn. As we learn, we hit the target more often. We thus grow in life and become more wise and capable.

Missing the mark is not a bad thing if we view it as a learning opportunity.

Where are we missing the mark or hitting the target?

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1998), p. 586.
[2] Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1981), p. 188.

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