So…anyone who knows me knows that I am not a sports person. I don’t play, I don’t watch, I don’t care! I don’t understand the rules, and if I was on the field or court, I would be the one who gets hit in the head with the ball or runs the wrong direction. I was lucky enough to marry a non-sports person as well, so we’re just blissfully ignorant together. But something we didn’t think about was that we would have offspring, and those offspring might actually want to play sports.
Enter 9 year old, 4 ft. 10 in., sweet and sparkly Selah Taylor, playing basketball for the first time ever.
After the first couple of practices, I knew it wasn’t going to be the experience I had hoped for her. I had hoped she would get on a team of kids who wanted to just have fun playing, learning the game, taking turns in the different positions, etc. I’m such a girl, I guess? I don’t know…I still don’t think I was entirely crazy with those hopes! What she ended up with instead was a team of very close friends, all guys, who had known each other forever and apparently had been playing basketball forever as well. Then there were three beginners tagged onto the group. Two of them were girls, and the other was a shy boy. You can imagine how this has played out. They have equal playing time, and that’s about the only positive thing I can say! The crowd goes wild when the same boys play after play after play drive the ball down the court single-handedly for a lay-up, or maybe a pass to their friend. Maybe once a game, a newbie will accidentally get the ball. Usually, they don’t know exactly what to do with it, they may dribble a little too high and lose control of it, they may break a rule, they may run to the opposite goal. It’s like they’re thinking, “Oh, wow, this is what a basketball feels like!” and by the time they’re done with that thought, someone has stolen it. And the worst thing that I sensed from the beginning is some of the adults who are “encouraging” their children from the sidelines or even the bench. This “encouragement” comes in the form of belittlement and phrases like, “What were you thinking?” My sensitive heart beats out of my chest. The kid’s face is red and he’s trying not to cry. No one does anything.
Okay, so all of that was to set up the story. This blog isn’t going to just be a bunch of complaining. I know God is doing something in me, God is always doing something on a deeper level and as I dig, there it is! I needed these truths and reminders, and this lovely basketball season was just the way for God to show me.
1. Sometimes our kids will do embarrassing things. Maybe its a sin they commit, bad behavior in a public place, or maybe their skill level in a certain area will be low! We’re watching them, we’re seeing the disappointment others may have in them, and it hurts. We don’t want them to feel ashamed, and quite frankly, we don’t want to feel ashamed. But I think God is saying to parents, to me, that if my self-confidence is so low as to care what others think of my child, I need to spend some time with Him remembering what matters, remembering my identity and who I am is wrapped up in who I am in Christ, not what I do or have to show for myself here on earth. Only when we remember that, and nail that down, can we teach our kids to do the same. We need to be bold and extravagant in our encouragement to our kids so they can hear what God wants to say to them about who they are! Also, they can accomplish great things, but they are also going to fail… a lot! We need to show them how to do that gracefully, with a firm grip on how much they are still loved and exquisitely designed for great purpose. So there’s a pit in my stomach on that basketball court. I don’t know that I want my daughter to get the ball. Who will be mad at her when she messes up? Maybe some parents, maybe some kids? Well, who cares? I love my daughter and I’m proud of her for trying. Anyone who thinks we are silly for still being happy after a mistake is missing out on some very good living.
2. If that embarrassment or frustration at our children leads to saying belittling things to them like: “What were you thinking?”, “What’s wrong with you?”, “Are you ever going to get this?” or “You drive me nuts”, we are flat out bullies. We’re standing over these little people and saying in essence the most ridiculous thing in the world: “Why aren’t you as good at this as I am?” We have 30 extra years on this earth! We may have gotten better at cracking eggs and solving math facts, but apparently we haven’t matured in character in all that time if this is how we’re acting. I am so convicted about this! That father at the basketball game made my heart hurt, and while I’m very sorry for the little boy, I am glad I could see my own wrong so clearly. I’ve asked forgiveness and God is giving new phrases that are kind and patient: “It was so cool how you learned that concept, I know you’ll be able to get this one, too!”, “One day, we’ll look at this book and it’ll seem so easy!”, or “Let’s dig deep and do our best, but if we don’t get it today, it’s ok!” Again, sometimes our frustration toward our kids isn’t even about them and our hopes for their improvement, it’s about us. I’m not any better than that dad. And we all have the daily moment-by-moment choice to be who God is calling us to be in the relationships we have with others, especially these little people.
We have the power to change the atmosphere and the atmosphere for future generations. We will either pass on the ability to gracefully make mistakes or pass on a policy of being harsh or ignoring failure completely. We will either pass on self-confidence and a deep sense of significance given to every creation of God or perpetuate the belief that we “are” as good as we “do.” We will either pass down kindness, security, and patience which sure does go a long way in helping a person of any age learn anything, or pass on the nerve-wracking demands that never gave anyone character or quality of life.
For anyone who is learning this and wants to pray with me…
Lord Jesus, You always spoke with kindness and love. Even when you corrected people, You spoke to their heart in a way that still cherished them as a creation of God and always let them know they had a safe place in You if they would be willing to leave their sin behind. You do not look at us as we deserve. After all of our sins, but also failures and things we aren’t good at, You look at us directly, in the eye, and just love us so much. Thank You! Help us receive this love and acceptance so that we can easily and freely give it to others! I acknowledge my behavior as sin and I ask Your forgiveness for the times I have said things and acted in ways that were not loving and accepting. I have been frustrated, embarrassed, and at my wit’s end over this particular person and situation… Please forgive me. I will go to this person and ask their forgiveness… Holy Spirit, will You be like an alarm clock in my heart, warning me when I am beginning to think and feel in an ungodly way so that I will stop and not allow myself to do any more damage. Lord, I seek complete and total freedom forever from this attitude and way of interacting with this person/these people. Give me a new way to think of them and speak to them, in Jesus’ Name. You are so powerful and the only way I can be changed, and I praise You!