Lord, I am excited and nervous. I feel like I used to feel before hitting the floor to start a basketball game. Excited and nervous.
Excited that the action was about to begin, excited that I would be in the middle of it, excited to even be the star player in the action. Sometimes.
But also, nervous. Nervous about making mistakes, nervous about the opponent’s talents, nervous about who might be watching. Nervous about looking like a goof.
The excitement and nervousness would subside when the game started. Then it was just playing ball. My confidence would rise, particularly if I got the ball early and did something good with it.
Today, I feel as though it is early in the game, I just had my first touch, and made a good play. The crowd goes wild! (Kinda).
But the difference is that while there is a crowd, there is only one in the audience who truly matters. You, Lord.
It is You who is evaluating and cheering my play on the court. It is You who will decide whether I was good or not. It is You who will decide whether I did my job correctly or not.
You are more than a coach, general manager or even owner. You teach me, train me and develop me. You ‘drafted’ me. I am a member of a glorious team. And I am important to it.
By no means am I the only key to the team, but my job is important, and if I don’t do it, the team underperforms. I know this because you communicate it to me and all my teammates. If we don’t play together, we don’t win. We don’t maximize our results. We don’t score enough points.
Because instead of points, we’re trying to sign more and more 'players.' There is no salary cap, scholarship limits or free agency period or anything like that.
There is simply an open invitation to all people. 'Bring your talents to our team.'
Bring your particular contribution. Be unselfish, help your teammates up when they fall, play fair, don’t complain, work hard, box out, talk on defense, ask out when you’re too tired to play and need a break.
Play hard for 94 feet, and sideline to sideline. Dive on the floor for loose balls. Make your free throws and layups.
When you’re not in the game, stay engaged. Cheer for your teammates, watch what is happening, and be ready when the coach sends you in.
Respect, but never fear your opponents. Show respect to officials, fans, coaches, teammates. Respect the game.
When the game ends, shake hands, win or lose, and move on to whatever is next. Blame no one for failure.
Celebrate everyone with success.
Have fun, no matter what. Because not everyone is blessed enough to 'play.' Some of your former 'teammates' have retired. Some of the 'assistant coaches' move on somewhere else. Some 'teammates' quit. Some great potential teammates never join the team.
You are blessed to be on this team. It is an honor and a privilege.
Although there are no ‘tryouts or cuts,’ membership comes with responsibilities. Along with all the others already mentioned, there is a responsibility to recruit new players. It doesn’t matter if you are the captain, the coach, the water person or a fan in the stands. We are all an example of what our 'team' is all about. We are all recruiters.
Bringing in new players, unlike with our earthly teams, threatens no one on the team. Each player's 'playing time' is fixed, regardless. You cannot lose your 'roster spot.' A bigger, broader, more diverse and versatile team is better, and there are never enough unique skill sets – we can always use more. Our 'style of play' accommodates all skill sets.
Because this isn’t really a game. And the results do matter. And they will continue to matter, literally, forever.
(Kind of like me covering Patrick Ewing for 2 years in high school. Sorry, I had to get that one in!)
In Jesus’ name, I pray, expectantly, joyfully, humbly, AMEN!