I have attended a summer camp for Christian Scientists for five years now, and throughout those five years I have always been in the horse programs. For the past three summers, I have participated in the polocrosse program for high schoolers, where you learn the rules in order to play, and later on in the session you even participate in a real tournament outside of camp. Polocrosse is a team-oriented sport that is played all over the world. It is a combination of polo and lacrosse on horseback.
This past summer, I was getting moved up to a higher level of game for the tournament I was going to compete in. It is an understatement to say I was nervous for that first game! While “tacking up,” or putting the equipment on my horse, before the first game of the day, I could tell she was feeling my nervousness, and this only seemed to make her more antsy and excited for our game, which was only an hour away.
As I mounted my horse, she was ready to take off. Getting her to walk and not canter to the polocrosse field is usually one of the simplest tasks I have, but this time it turned into a difficult one. I finally managed to keep her calm enough while doing our warm-up.
Right as we were going into the first lineup to start the game, she started “crow-hopping.” (Crow-hopping is when horses do tiny jumps with their back arched and their hind legs stiffened.) I was used to her doing this in lineups during our practices, so I normally knew what to do in order to get her to stop. But I felt completely consumed by nervousness. The first half of the game I was letting this get the best of me, which affected my playing and allowed the other team to get a big lead against my team. I burst into tears right as I walked off the field; I just wanted the game to be over!
One of my teammates came over and calmed me down by telling me how this was not the “real me” being expressed, and how all of this nervousness was just “error,” or the belief in a power besides God, trying to come into my thought and take away my joy and my freedom. This encouragement helped, and I managed to stay under control for the second half of the game. But afterwards I went straight back to the trailers in order to untack and take care of my horse, feeling that I had let my counselors and teammates down.
I was energized and ready to play, with a new perspective on how to go about the game.
There was a long period of time before my next game, so I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to pray in order to get my thoughts in the right place. I borrowed my head counselor’s copy of Prose Works and opened it up to an article titled “Heart to Heart” by Mary Baker Eddy (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, pp. 262–263). I read through it multiple times and felt I’d finally found what I had been missing all morning in my first game. What stuck out to me the most was this last line: “Always bear in mind that His presence, power, and peace meet all human needs and reflect all bliss.”
I thought about how God’s “presence, power, and peace” met our needs as a polocrosse team, and how we express qualities of God as we play. For example, our responsibilities were different; some teammates needed courage and “power” as they took on an offensive position and set the overall pace, and others needed “peace” as well as alertness as they calmly defended the goal.
Through these realizations, I immediately felt as though I had just woken up from a long nap. I was energized and ready to play, with a new perspective on how to go about the game. Whenever the feeling of uncertainty started to creep into my thoughts, I firmly rejected the false suggestion by knowing that God’s presence, power, and peace are all I need. Though my team didn’t win on the scoreboard, we’d all won by making lots of progress in our playing abilities.
My team ended up getting third place in that tournament, and later on that summer we went on to getting second place at another tournament. It did not matter so much to us what place we got, though. What mattered was that we played with some of the best and most inspiring riders and horses in the sport.
I am so grateful for all the spiritual growth I’ve experienced as a Christian Scientist over the years. I look forward to all the new experiences, as my understanding of Christian Science only becomes clearer and stronger.
Kiersten Sheehan is a junior in high school. She loves playing volleyball and polocrosse and also enjoys acting, as well as being an active member of stage crew.
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