Am I Really That Far Off?
This may be the worst thing you could hear during a basketball game. When a player airballs their shot, it means that after they have released the ball from their hands, the ball completely misses any part of the basket or backboard. Oops. And to make matters worse, the opposing fans, yell "Airball!" not once or twice, but whenever that player takes possession of the ball after they've airballed, they chant it over and over and over again. I've had a lot of experience shooting airballs as a high school basketball player. Thankfully our opposing fans were respectful and didn't chant that embarrassing word. However, I would still chant it in my head, which was just as bad.
I started playing basketball when I was in eighth grade. My teammates, on the other hand, had all played for about 3-4 years before, so naturally, they were quite a bit better. I was determined to catch up quickly! But it seemed I was always air-balling while they were draining every shot. They might as well have been slam-dunking! I immediately started comparing my LACK of practice to their YEARS of experience.
This was an impossible comparison. My coach would take me to the other side of the court to practice the mechanics of how to shoot a free-throw. I had no idea there were so many things you needed to know and practice just to put this orange ball through a white net. It wasn't just a matter of chucking it up there and praying it goes in. I had to line up my feet, my shoulders, my arm, bend my knees, jump, and at the same time release the ball at just the right height for the ball to make it there. The free-throw line, which is only 15 feet from the basket, seemed a mile away! It became too much like work. I would follow these steps only, you guessed it, to airball time and time again. This was sooooo defeating! If it weren't for the encouragement of my coaches, teammates, family and fans, I would have given up for sure! You see, my coach could see my determination and knew that it was only by mentally walking through these steps with continual practice that I would eventually start making some. Well, he was sure right, and I am so thankful! To this day, basketball is my favorite sport to play.
As I pondered my high school years as a basketball player, I was reminded of other times in my life where I have felt like I have air-balled, while others are slam dunking it. The feelings of defeat plagued me again. I had expectations that I was going to be married by 22, have a couple of kids by 25 and be in full-time ministry. Well, I am currently 41, have no kids and not in full-time ministry. I hear myself and the world chanting, "AIR BALL!" "AIR BALL!" "AIR BALL!"
When we compare ourselves with others, we feel like we are just so far off, we've missed something, we are forgotten. Especially when I see my friends accomplishing these same desires. Jealousy sets in, and thoughts like, “What is wrong with me?” and “God, did you forget about my desires?” run like ticker tape in my mind. Because God wasn’t fulfilling MY desires and He was fulfilling others, I became extremely angry and bitter. I lived in this fog for about 10 years. I was too busy being mad at everyone, I couldn’t see the desires God wanted to fulfill in my life. I eventually came to a place where I couldn’t live with this anger and bitterness any longer. I was dying inside. Something needed to change.
Matthew 6:33 says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you." This hit me hard, as I read the first part of that verse more closely, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. I realized I was seeking God in the wrong way. I was asking Him to fulfill my desires, but I wasn't even caring about what He desires for me first. If I am not seeking His kingdom and his righteousness, how will I know if my desires are His desires?
At that moment, I knew I needed to surrender my desires to my Lord and focus on getting my heart right with Him. I needed to stop my comparing. I needed to remember that God was on my side, He knew me better than I knew myself. You see, Jesus is our coach in life. Just like training with my basketball coach, I needed to learn the mechanics of His word, the truth about the game of life, and trust that He knew the game plan better than I did. It would just take practice to spend time with Him as he reminded me of his character and who I was as his child.
As I began this new path, I was slowly able to grow in excitement toward my friends' accomplishments and rejoice with them. Now I didn’t do this perfectly, but the anger and bitterness began to fade. Thank you, Jesus! I am also discovering that writing this blog and public speaking is the journey He has called me to and it has already been so fulfilling. The rest of the verse in Matthew says, "and all these things will be added unto you," I believe as I surrendered MY desires, he was able to show me that public speaking and writing are "the things He has added unto me."
Do I still have a desire to be married one day? Oh, heck yeah! But I will leave that up to my Coach to decide if that is in His game plan. I believe I'm learning what it looks like to truly trust Jesus every step of the way knowing His desires are the best. To develop my relationship with Him, strive to have a pure heart, and love and encourage others to surrender to Jesus. To me, these are slam dunks!
Oh, and in case you are wondering if I ever graduated from shooting and making a few free-throws, yes I sure did! I was often asked to shoot clutch 3-pointers during games and oh what a feeling that was! Slam-dunking will have to wait until I make it to Heaven where I will meet my coach face to face, oh what a feeling that will be!