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Pole vault perfection

From the September 8, 2014 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

This past spring I attempted to launch myself over a bar with a bendy stick. I learned how to pole vault.

Pole vaulting was an amazing and challenging new experience for me, and what I’d heard about injuries didn’t stop me from trying out for the high school team. 

Once I’d made the team, however, I quickly found that doing the same thing over and over again, striving for perfection, could be very discouraging. So I began to pray to know that because I’m God’s image and likeness (see Genesis 1:26, 27), I express all of God’s qualities. I also tried to express just as much life, enthusiasm, and gracefulness as a professional athlete. Soon, I had some huge breakthroughs. I learned to run faster and jump higher, and I cleared the bar a foot higher than I had been able to before.

I needed to stand up for myself.

A few days later I noticed that my hip, which had started getting sore at the beginning of the season, was bothering me more and more. I was annoyed that this problem began right when I was doing so well. I hadn’t prayed about this at first because it hadn’t bothered me too much, and I’d thought it would just go away on its own. 

My hip felt worse, and it was difficult for me to keep vaulting throughout practice. My coach insisted that I see the school trainer about it. The trainer suggested I do physical therapy and told me it could keep getting worse. I thought to myself that I’d just “push through” to the end of the season and would be fine when I could rest afterward. 

Ali pole vaulting
Courtesy photo

Then during physical education class the next day, I twisted my ankle. This brought me to my spiritual senses! I had let “error”—or the false idea that I could be vulnerable and hurt and just needed to live with pain for a while—affect my pole vaulting, and now my ankle was hurt, too? I needed to stand up for myself and my understanding of truth. 

There was no reason I couldn’t be out playing and pole vaulting with my friends, because my abilities were from God, and I was doing these activities to express joy and glorify God. 

I pulled up the text of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy on my phone and read some of it in class. Although I can’t remember the passages I read, I was very comforted. I didn’t need to let error infiltrate my thoughts. I didn’t need to feel helpless; I could stand up to the negative mental suggestions that I was hurt and in pain. 

That night I told my mom what had been going on and also called a Christian Science practitioner. The first thing the practitioner asked me was “How is your purple hair?” I told him I didn’t have purple hair. Suddenly, I saw it was the same with my injuries. 

I realized that the only problem was my belief that I had been injured. God had always been keeping me safe and well. And my previous resolution to just “push through” the hurt would never help me because it started from the standpoint that I had been hurt in the first place. To God, I had always been loved and perfect and had remained safe the whole time. I was never hurt. I was actually completely whole and perfect!

After I had this realization, the injuries melted away into the nothingness they had been all along. I finished the season with a new personal best and an invitation to a varsity league meet. Pole vault has become my new favorite sport. I’m already looking forward to the next season!

Ali Marsh is a tenth grade gymnast and pole vaulter. She loves reading and wants to study nanotechnology in college.

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