We just got back home from Brady's ( our 14 yr. old freshman) basketball game. Brady goes to Western Christian, for those of you who don't know. Our basketball program is a storied and strong program. Brady's gradeschool was very small. He was used to being kindof the go to guy last season. Coming to play at Western has been a intimidating experience for him. What amazes me when I watch him play though, is that Brady is just as good now as he was last year. In fact he's better. He's stronger. He's more coordinated. He's more refined. But this year Brady is playing with the best of the best. He dosn't always realize that this will make him better. He plays scared. He doesn't drive, doesn't float above the fray, with his classic leaping abilities. He doesn't shoot or score. This year Brady is passive and ill at ease on the court. The last few games his coach has really gotten on him to start playing his game. With a lot of very strong "encouragement" from Bill, Brady has begun to drive the lane, shoot some three pointers and rebound with that leap of his. It's been fun to watch. He'll stand out there with absolutely no confidence, but his coach screams at him to take the defender on and there he goes, reaching his long arms above the opposition and laying the ball so beautifully in the hoop.
I was watching today, just SO frustrated with him for not engaging in the beginning of the game. For not getting up in there and doing the thing he's been so gifted to do. Before I knew it though, under his coaches extreme pressure, he effortlessly scored several times. Why does it always take so much prodding, so much yelling, so many varied forms of encouragment to get him to do what it seems he was born to do?
And then, it all began to feel so familiar. There are so many times in my life when I feel like I'm all alone out there on the wing with the ball in my hands. I can risk it all and go for the shot, or I can play it safe and pass off once again. The hoop is in view, and I know what it takes to score but between here and there stand several obstacles that so often seem to large to overcome. I can hear my fellow "team mates" encouraging me to go for it; to do the thing the Lord has set before me to do, but like Brady, I opt often to pass. Why? Because fear always seems to stand in my way. What if I don't make it? What if someone "steals the ball"? What if I get halfway there and things begin to close in? I stand there in the middle of all of these super Christians. The best of the best. Surely someone else can do it better. Certainly I'm not the one who should "take the ball". Frantically I look at my "Coach" and always I see him telling me to go for it. Finally I decide that the choice is no longer mine. Like Brady, I begin to dribble, I skirt my first opponent, I sky over the next defender, I bring the ball above my head even as I leap from the wood as if springs were attached to the soles of my feet, and then there is this moment, this moment I'm sure Brady must have as the ball begins to leave the tips of his fingers and he hears the crowd, his team mates, his coach's thunderous applause. In this moment I know the pleasure of a "well done" the knowlege that sometimes being a "good and faithful servant" means taking the risk even when the possiblity of failure factors in, even when I don't end up making the shot. Because in the end of the game the coach wasn't really as concerned about getting those points as he was about the growth of Brady as a player. Seeing Brady develop is the goal far and above how many points he scores in a particular game.
I guess if it really isn't about the points scored, and really is about personal growth then maybe, just maybe, it's worth the risk. Every time.