The Sticky Wicket

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You may have heard the phrase of this title (sticky wicket) and even used it, but did you know the origin of those words? Those non-sports persons such as I needed to check to be certain of the meaning and learned the wicket is the playing surface in the game of cricket. The phrase refers to how difficult it is to play on a wet and sticky pitch and was first used in July of 1882.

But the use of it in the title is really a metaphor used for many other situations and things and one option is that of relationships. God designed us for relationship from the outset – relationship with Him and with one another. Some might wonder if He knew that would be as complicated as it tends to be. We long for relationships at some level and yet they can also be the source of some of our greatest difficulties and wounds while offering us some of our most joyous significant moments.

“…the persistent human cry is simply for someone to love us, to hold us tight. Our need for relationship is even more powerful than our need for food.”

Dr. Tim Clinton & Dr. Gary Sibcy
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Our challenge to meet that need built into our DNA and designed by our Creator is complicated to the point of sometimes being a sticky wicket. Each of us is extraordinarily complex, made up of multiple physical bodily systems affecting us in more ways than we even notice until one of them breaks down. But it doesn’t stop there. There are all those emotions cascading throughout our typical day and a brain that is breaking down data into thoughts and ideas at a rate that would astound most computer programmers if it could be fully understood. Add to that family history and everything and everyone we meet, and it gets more than a little sticky.

Nearly any story we read exposes us to characters of complexity that weave story lines that are fascinating to us, and we enjoy them more because we observe them rather than being in them. Those are easier to understand than what happened the last time we got together with our family or a group of friends over coffee.

“We’re all such masses of contradictions – we can barely understand ourselves, much less anyone else. And the more we care about someone, the more we have the capacity to wound them.”

Lauren Willig
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And we often blunder relationally because of that without fully knowing what really triggered us in the moment or why we hurt someone we dearly love. How we respond in those situations is significant and sometimes sets up a pattern that can become habitual. Some of us will explode and our feelings accompanied by words will splash over anyone and everyone around us. Some of us will withdraw in our hurt and woundedness and the other person involved will be wounded again without a clear path of what next. A few of us will express our feelings without blaming and then listen to the response of the other person seeking to understand before being understood.

Ah, yes, complicated, and more so when we look at this through the lens we are told as Christians in loving God and others. If we are clear on who God is and his love and grace to us, we can be tempted to want to spend our time with Him and skip the “others” He has commanded us to love. And within the context of loving, He adds our need to forgive (harder still when we feel wounded).

“True friendship isn’t abstaining from hurting one another, but forgiving each other when we do.”

Lauren Willig

How we humble ourselves and follow Christ’s example in loving and forgiving will determine the quality of our relationships and define our relational legacy. It would surprise none of you that the hardest places to walk that out are in our homes, churches, and workplaces where we are bumping up against one another all the time and caught up in dozens of things not connected to that place even though they are affecting us. Those things don’t excuse our behavior, but when others are unaware of them there is going to be a shocked reaction to how we behaved.

Eugene Peterson offers a powerful observation on all this:

“Because the root of the solid spiritual life is embedded in a relationship between people and God, it is easy to develop the misunderstanding that my spiritual life is something personal between God and me – a private thing to be nurtured by prayers and singing, spiritual readings that comfort and inspire, and worship with like-minded friends. If we think this way for very long, we will assume that the way we treat the people we don’t like or who don’t like us has nothing to do with God.”

Eugene Peterson

And it doesn’t work to ignore the wound and the feelings connected to it. That creates even more infection and consequences both now and long term.

“We live in a vast world of interconnectedness, and the consequences, either in things or people – and all consequences come together in God.”

Eugene Peterson

Perhaps God’s design for relationships was in part to provoke us to see our fallen nature regularly, humble ourselves, and call out to Him for grace, mercy, and love to become more like Him.

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12 thoughts on “The Sticky Wicket

  1. I feel like I’ve been in a sticky wicket lately with a couple friends. It’s become awkward and we’ve begun having some difficult conversations, but we need to press in a little deeper to really see and hear each other. The love is there, so I’m praying we continue through the process.

    1. Those are hard. I am reminded of one of Covey’s 7 Habits: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. I often realize I have not done that and need to step back and recall that it can make a big difference when I do it that way and really listen and ask clarifying questions before responding. 🙏🏻💕

  2. Pam, never heard the term, “sticky wicket” before. But it is a powerful analogy to relationships. We were created as relational beings, yet as you point out, things often become complicated, emotionally “sticky.” The imagery you conjured up by describing it as bumping into one another. As a pastor’s wife for 18 years, I can attest to this being hardest in our homes, churches, and workplaces. In fact, the enemy hits those in ministry hard in the relational department. I pray to stay humble, forgive, and see others through the eyes of God.

    1. I understand what it means for you as a pastor’s wife. Before I retired as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in a Christian private practice I worked with many clergy and spouses and children (as well as other leaders) greatly impacted by relational wounds from within the church they were serving. The last 13 years I worked prior to retirement, I worked on a church staff and saw it every day in one way or another. I don’t think those a staff serves has a clear view of what that is like and expectations can be very high. As a whole, relationships within the body can be pretty messy or shall I say “sticky.”

  3. I’ve heard the phrase “a sticky wicket” throughout my life, but I never knew its derivation. I agree with your observation that it’s important to forgive others when they inevitably hurt us. It’s really the only way to live in peace and move on. Thank you for participating in Talent-Sharing Tuesdays Link-Up 12.

  4. I have to admit I have never heard the expression you mention. But … how good to think on my own fallen nature and how challenging relationships can be. Knowing how often I must come before God and others, and ask for forgiveness, I hope I always offer that to others as well. There is a strength and beauty which develops in relationships that go the distance. They are the relationships I cherish deeply.

    1. I had heard and used the phrase metaphorically without knowing its history. Relationships are very important to me (always have been) and I (like you) have some of a deeper level that Have blessed me beyond measure.💕

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