As a college freshman, one of the things I disliked the most was required, zero-credit Physical Education (PE) classes. At my university, undergraduate students were required to take four consecutive semesters of PE. I hated the feeling of working for nothing.
In addition, I was truly out of my element at PE. My first course was an elementary badminton class. My teacher smiled at my first shots, and I sensed the smile was one of humor rather than admiration. I would have much rather spent the time poring over a textbook or writing reports, instead of sweating as I tried to master basic maneuvers most of the other students were adept at.
That year, I was bemoaning my plight to a friend of mine, a middle-aged woman who’d never had the chance to go to college. When she heard my groaning, she blurted out, “Why are you complaining? Many people have to pay lots of money to learn badminton with a professional coach! And you can do it every week as part of your studies? I’m envious!”
I just stared at her, too shocked to come up with a response. To her, the PE course, which was the bane of my college life, was a special boon that she envied! I realized I could go on childishly whining through my two years of PE, or I could get off my proverbial sofa in the library and build some muscles. Rather than focusing on the fact that I was not going to get any credit for those courses, I could focus on the fact that PE class gave me the opportunity to learn a sport from a professional.
My friend’s remark prompted me to examine my responses to other unappealing aspects of college life—the cafeteria menu, my professors’ evaluation systems, the early-morning exams—and I found, to my embarrassment, that my complaints stemmed from a deeper lack of trust in God’s love for me and His perfect wisdom. I couldn’t apply Paul’s admonition to “Give thanks in all circumstances”1 until I learned to see every annoyance as a jewel of God’s love in disguise.
By the end of the semester, I had not only picked up basic badminton skills, I had also improved my hand-eye coordination and physical endurance in general. Most importantly, I had become more conscious of the times when I get stuck on unattractive wrapping and miss the gift. As the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “It is not doing the thing we like to do, but liking the thing we have to do, that makes life blessed.”