My name is Peter. I’m a broken Ping-Pong ball. But I wasn’t always broken.
I used to be a perfect ping-ping ball. I was the best. And I wanted everyone around me to think I was the best, too.
I wanted people to play with me. I used to long to make people happy by bringing them together to play ping pong. It didn’t really matter who I brought to the ping pong table. The important thing was that I would make them happy.
It was such fun being a ping pong ball. If you could see the faces of those who played ping pong while I bounced back and forth between them. Sometimes they would be happy, others times sad. Sometimes they were angry, other times they were mad.
I didn’t like it when they were sad and angry. It made me feel anxious and scared. When they were sad, I wondered if it was something I had done. Maybe I bounced wrong. Maybe I spun too much. Perhaps I bounced too many times. Or maybe I went to fast or too slow. There was really no way to know.
But I wanted them to be happy. Deep in my soul I knew that if they weren’t happy, I couldn’t be happy either. I wanted the players to think that ping pong was the best game one could play and that I was the best ping pong ball they could ever have.
Was I The Best?
Though I was white and perfectly circular, I wasn’t sure if I was the best or not. I wasn’t even sure if anyone would want me. After all, maybe there were better ping pong balls. Maybe they would want a different color. Maybe they’d want a different manufacturer. Maybe they just wouldn’t like ping pong balls at all. Oh, that would be so very, very painful if that were true.
What if they didn’t use me? What if they left me on the shelf? What if they found a ping pong ball that was better?
Just thinking about it made me feel worthless and ugly…and afraid. Oh, on the outside I looked like an y other ping pong ball. Inside, however, I was afraid that someone might find out the secret I kept thinking inside: that I was just a stupid, worthless ping pong ball.
I didn’t want that to happen. How could I ever deal with the pain…of the truth?
To keep the painful truth from coming out, I focused my entire life on one objective: to be the best ping pong ball I could be.
And that I was. Every time there was a ping pong game, I asked that they use me. I begged, pleaded, gave and sacrifice everything I could just to be sure they used me for all their games. I wanted to be their most cherished ping pong ball. I gave up everything just for that.
Those who have played ping pong know the kinds of things ping pong balls experience. Sometimes the ping pong ball gets hit gently over the net. Sometimes you get spun—forward and backwards. Sometimes you get smashed against the opponent. Sometimes you get hit off the table, slammed against the wall and stepped on. Sometimes ping pong players abuse the ping pong ball.
But I didn’t care. I just wanted both teams to keep playing. It wanted them to know that as long as I was there, bouncing between them, everything would be OK.
My life as a ping pong ball would probably still be pretty much bouncing along as it was. But one day something happened. No one came to the ping pong table to play. At first, I thought nothing of it. “I’ll just find another ping pong table where there’s others who want to play with me.”
But everywhere I went, sooner or later, the painful realization returned. Nobody wanted me to be their ping pong ball anymore. There was nobody left anymore who would play.
I cried as I thought of all the players I had tried to make happy. They laughed and made friends.
“How could they have done it without me?” I wondered. “But now they’ve left me.” I thought of those players who became champions…all because I was willing to let them hit, practice, use and abuse me. But they were nowhere to be found.
“After all I’ve done for them, how could they do this too me?” “I gave them the very best I had. Look where they are! See what I did for them! And look what they did to me!” The most painful thing was when I saw those I had helped playing ping pong…with a different ping pong ball.
I was enraged. I yelled, screamed and put up all kinds of tantrums. When I recognized that no one was there to hear my anger, I was faced with the most painful realization. I was alone. I had been abandoned, rejected and cast away. “What did I do to deserve this?” “I gave the very best I had and look what they’ve done to me.”
I felt like I never wanted to play ping pong again. It was too painful to be hit around. It was too painful to try to be with others and make them happy. I was too tired and weary to try to make people happy by letting them paddle me around anyway they wanted. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make them happy.
In my loneliness I also recognized that I couldn’t make myself happy, either. But I never considered that before. I was so used to being a ping pong ball that I never considered being anything else. “Wasn’t that what God wanted from me?” I asked. “I gave my whole life to be the best ping pong ball I could be. Certainly that counts for something!” I thought.
The further I got from the ping pong table, the lonelier I got. It was painful. But to return to the ping pong table only meant more of the same rejection, abuse and people-pleasing. I knew I didn’t want that pain anymore. Though it sometimes felt good for the moment, though I could survive the slams, the smashes and the painful smack of the players’ paddles, I decided I couldn’t keep on going. Sooner or later I would crack. I couldn’t bounce anymore.
But, in spite of my resolve, I did go back to the table one more time. By chance, a couple of familiar players came by. I asked them to play a game with me. They did…and after just a couple of volleys, they hit me so hard that I cracked in two. Even if I wanted to bounce, I couldn’t anymore.
When I realized I could no longer be a ping pong ball. I recognized that I had no more purpose. In fact, the more I thought of it, I realize I had wasted my entire life bouncing between players instead of asking what I should really be doing.
I was profoundly alone in my brokeness. I knew there was no way to fix what I was without a major miraculous change. I tried everything to fix the cracks and splits on my surface. I tried tape, Band-Aids, glue…anything. It tried putting stuff inside me that might somehow cover the hurt. But everything I tried worked only for a few moments.
As long as I still wanted to be a ping pong ball, I realized I’d experience the same pain. There would be no long-term relief. Just pain…and more pain…and even more pain.
You Don’t Have To Be A Ping-Pong Ball
One day it occurred to me. I didn’t have to be a ping pong ball anymore. In fact, in my broken condition I found that I was less susceptible to be used by others. I discovered that since I wasn’t trying to make everyone else happy that now I could focus on what would make me happy.
The more I searched, the more I wondered. “God, what is it that you will have me do?” The search took a long time. But I was determined not to go back to the ping pong table. For once in my life, I was going to find out what God had planned for me.
In my deep aloneness, I found that I wasn’t really alone after all. God just needed to break me and take me away from my hurtful ping pong habits so that, in my loneliness, I would find Him.
The truth is, though, that He found me. Broken, smashed, depressed without even a hint of a bounce left, God showed me His calling for me. I was amazed what God had in store for me.
After all, how could God use a broken up, smashed and worthless ping pong ball?
How I’ve Changed
I’m still a ping pong ball. But I don’t bounce the way I used to. In fact, I don’t bounce at all. But my weakness is my strength. And my strength, my only strength, is God’s strength.In the final analysis, I guess I have to admit I am a ping pong ball. But I’m not like the other ping pong balls because I’m broken now.
I don’t allow others to bounce me around. I don’t need to have to make others happy by bouncing me around as they choose. Most importantly, I don’t need to cover up my own personal pain of loneliness and fear of rejection by letting others play, use and abuse me. No matter where they might try to hit me—or however hard they try—I will go my direction, not theirs. Though they get upset, I will go…where God wants me to go. Why? Because that’s where the joy is.
Would you like to be a former ping pong ball, too? Just leave the table, face the pain, and let God find you in your broken loneliness. When He finds you, He’ll make you the most useful and beautiful ping pong ball anyone can ever imagine. You’ll be amazed at the new bounce that God has planned for your life!
Thomas F. Fischer
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