There’s something about Thursday night basketball this summer that has fascinated me. Picture about 10 men roughly 30-60 years old playing pick up basketball every Thursday. They know each other. They know who likes to draw fouls. They know who can make a 3 pointer. They know just how physical they can get before things get out of hand. Now add in 2 females with moderate basketball ability. I should mention that not all men at our Thursday night gatherings deliberately avoid passing the ball to females. But there are those who will not pass me or my friend the ball – even if we’re at the other end of the court by ourselves wide open. Nonetheless, my friend and I don’t get the ball very much. We normally guard each other, and we just have a good time making things happen with little recognition. This is my Thursday night scene.
However, this week was different. My friend was caught up in the study grind. So I packed my water bottle and my courage, and went by myself, the sole female player of the night. The normal tension of doubt-in-female-basketball-ability was even more heightened. So much so that there were a number of times they didn’t feel the need to guard me right down low on the block, where I could easily (and did easily) score a number of layups. One guy thought he could take me in the paint, but I shut that down real quick – my defense is unstoppable 😉
As I walked home, drenched in sweat from the un-airconditioned gym, I tried to figure out why it is that we seem to thrive in situations of adversity. There’s something about someone telling you that you can’t that somehow gives you the strength to accomplish that very thing. People of authority in our lives try to use that to their advantage. Coaches that yell and curse at you to get you to do what they want. Parents that think it’s okay to crush their kids’ dreams of being an astronaut or a spy or a recording studio owner. Teachers that judge a child’s success, putting some students behind that should be ahead while others are put ahead and should be behind. The problem is that sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. There has to be a more effective way. I believe there’s a problem with the lack of recognition of the vitality of responsibility and intentionality in leadership roles. As a result, we have to learn to override authority figures before we can learn to overcome adversity. Talk about lessons that can take a lifetime to figure out. No wonder we live in a world that struggles with confidence and self-image. I’m curious to see what would happen if we tried bona fide encouragement and genuine relationship to teach and inspire our youth (and really people of all ages).
Through a variety of circumstances in my life, I was lucky enough to learn the necessity of confidence early on. Yet every day is still an exercise of listening to determine where I’m supposed to be and a choice to continue in the fight, no matter the level of my energy or assurance. Right when you think you’re strong enough to handle whatever comes your way, the problems get bigger. That’s right where Jesus meets us. (Thanks Matt for that reminder this morning). It’s not about our ability to solve the problems of the world; that’s been covered for us. It’s not about discouraging leaders and role models in our life; we have a Leader of love and grace and hope who will never leave us or hurt us. It’s not about proving all the haters wrong; our identity is in something so much greater.
So go ahead. Doubt me. Put me in a box. Try to tell me what I can’t do. Because when it all comes down to it, I’m not fighting on my own. God is on my side, and the battle is already won. With that truth, we can overcome any adversity, basketball or otherwise.