In high school I had a few t-shirts I loved and they revolved around the game of basketball. Although I wasn’t good at all, I was on the team all four years of high school, getting deeply shaped (and maybe warped) by the physical discipline and team dynamics.
One T-shirt I wore into rags said “There’s no “I” in Team” and another one, “Go Hard or Go Home”. Then there was another one my parents got me for Christmas one year: “Jesus Christ is Life, the Rest is Just Basketball”. Yep, I had one of those shirts. And I wore it proud more because of the basketball on the front then the “Jesus Christ” part.
Yesterday while Emma and I were in the sanctuary at a local church hosting a time for the community to come and rest while Emma played some music, I found myself reliving the game of basketball.
As Emma’s soundtrack filled the historic theater, I felt drawn to the floor. From that vantage point I quickly re-lived dozens of similar positions when being on my face led me to honest and difficult conversations with Jesus. However, I didn’t feel anything “difficult” coming on this time.
So I began to just talk to the Lord, and pretty soon….. Basketball. Yep. He was all of the sudden the Coach and I was the breathless, sweaty player sitting the bench during a critical time out. My teammates were all around me, but the Coach was looking straight at me. Instead of yelling at me and filling me with fear or shame, He said words no basketball coach has ever said in the history of the sport, I’m almost certain.
“You know you might not win this one for us?”
“Yes Coach. I know. But I’m ready to go back in!”
“You might not score the winning shot. You could get injured and be out the rest of the season….”
“Yep! I know…. but it’s more likely I’ll foul out, wouldn’t You agree? ;)”
“Well, I don’t know about that, but it is a possibility!”
“Coach…. I LOVE this game! I love everything about it! I even love the time-outs and the practices, the wild bus rides with the team after a win and the silent rides after a loss. But right now, I love that You have me in the game, Coach.
“I don’t mean to take that for granted, and I understand you don’t have to keep me in the game. But so long as I am, I’m going to put my WHOLE heart into it! I know what it is to sit the bench, I’ve done that a LOT! And cheering and hooting and hollaring for my Team is honestly more FUN than this full-court press You have us doing. But I wouldn’t choose to be benched.
“I know you trust me with the ball right now and I want to handle it with the force and agility You’ve trained me to. I don’t even care too much about winning, or who we are playing or getting the play exactly right. I just LOVE this game. Thanks for letting me play, Coach.”
“Alright…… you sound ready to get back in there, huh? Get some water, dry your face and get that ball back into play!”
JUSTembrace is growing and maturing and deepening. It’s at times frightening and it’s easy to feel the pressure of being the star player on the team, or the high scorer. It’s tempting to look at this leadership and influence and feel accountable to produce it and manage it rather than simply put my heart into the game and allow the Coach to direct the flow and the team. It’s not easy to be both coach and point guard ya know? It’s not wise either.
I love my role as a Post. I love the thrill of hustling back to the paint to be ready to box out my opponents. I’m hungry for rebounds! But I can’t guarantee the outcome. I can’t secure my future. I can’t secure the future of the team. But I can trust the Coach. I can look to Him for plays and last minute instructions. I can block out the sounds of the fans, the opponents, the trash talkers and even the cheer leader’s catchy rhymes. I can choose to tune into my Coach’s voice that I know so well and be ready in a moment’s notice to pass the ball or steal the ball or block a shot.
I gotta admit, I’m a WAY better basketball player figuratively than I ever was in real life! 🙂 I don’t mind one bit.