Laura (not her real name) was a 6’2″ transfer from out of state. At first glance she seemed to possess all the physical attributes needed to play for the championship women’s basketball team she was now a member of. She carried herself well. She was smart. She was the star of her junior college team, recruited by our coaching staff, and given a scholarship to play for us. But during those last two years of her basketball career it seemed that whenever she stepped out onto the floor she became “Bambi on ice.” Her coordination failed her. Her hands were like butter. And the more she failed the more flustered she became.
Our coach was one of the best. She was tough, very strict with her players, but she knew what she was doing and had a winning record to prove it. As the “team manager” (i.e. glorified water girl) I got to watch her work.* She was amazing! But when it came to Laura, Coach’s patience (a relatively short fuse anyway) was challenged. Initially, there was a sense that it was just nerves and that eventually Laura would settle in to her new role on the team. When that didn’t happen, Coach assigned her assistant coach to work with her. They had both seen great potential in Laura and worked diligently to pull that out. But there was little fruit in their efforts that first year.
The second year brought an additional assistant coach to the staff. It was clear from day one of practice that Coach had assigned him to work with Laura. Every spare minute before, during, and after practice he spent time with her. He was gentle and patient (a little more so than Coach) and he too invested in her success.
But, as the season wore on so did Laura on everyone’s patience. No amount of effort seemed to help her. It wasn’t that she didn’t have the skill to play basketball, it was that, for whatever reason, that potential remained hidden. Laura’s attitude didn’t help much either. She had a hard time taking responsibility for her own mistakes. After all her failures she still clung to her reputation and success at her previous school like a crown of glory. This didn’t go over well with her teammates. Even after almost two years Laura struggled to fit in with her team in more ways than one.
It was towards the very end of that second season… perhaps the last game or two when it happened. Coach always tried to be fair with playing time. In most cases, every player saw the floor at least once during a game. Laura was no exception. But in those last couple games when Laura was out on the floor, Coach was silent. I never knew what the expression “silence can be deafening” meant until it saw it happen to Laura. It was sad. I can vividly remember her running past the bench after yet another error looking towards Coach waiting to be corrected… or yelled at… or something. …there was nothing. Coach had given up. She no longer put forth the effort to even correct her mistakes. She was done. It was devastating to watch.
I have thought of this story many times since college. And the message that always comes through to me time and time again is that God never gives up on us! Whether Coach was right or wrong to respond the way she did to Laura, she was only human. In her own limitations she couldn’t provide that AGAPE – unconditional love – that God provides to each and every one of us. We have a God who continues to seek to pull the potential out of us. He created us! He knows us! And He knows every one of our mistakes even before we make them! His coaching staff is endless. He has a slew of people He can put into our lives to direct us, mold us, and shape us into the “player” He knows we can be. He desires for us to learn, and grow, and continually be transformed into what He has designed and created us to be. He has not and will never give up on YOU!
There is one other element of this story that I just learned (literally) today! Do you know what kind of love WE are called to? It is not a physical love (eros), or a brotherly love (phileo)… NO! We are called to AGAPE love! The same unconditional love that God has for us!!! For example in 1 Corinthians 13 – the love chapter of the Bible, the word used for love in every verse is AGAPE. Also, in my life verse, 1 John 4:12, “No one has ever seen God, but if we love (AGAPE) one another, God is in us and His love (AGAPE) is made complete in us.” The love we need to reflect and bring into the lives of others is the deep, wide, and unselfish brand of God’s love!
Which brings me to my title for this blog entry… The Lord has been convicting me lately every time in frustration I think or utter the word, “whatever…” It’s not the word He hates so much as it is the attitude I attach to it. For me that word is like me waving a white flag. It’s a sign I’m giving up. And it is very often associated with a person or a circumstance that I have lost hope in. It’s a sign that at best my faith is waning and at the very worst I have stopped showing His AGAPE love to someone who needs it.
Being “DA GLOVE” is about sharing and showing AGAPE love – unconditional, God-kind-of-love – to others. Frankly we are incapable of doing that on our own. It must be God who is in us and working through us.
Don’t let the “whatever’s” of your life stand in the way of His tremendous love that is for YOU and for EVERYONE He puts in your path.
*My favorite story to tell of Coach’s genius was a game where there was one minute left to play and we were down by 10 points. It was rare for us to lose and very rare to be down by so many points. Coach called a time out and one of the first things out of her mouth was, “Stranger things have happened, people.” Within seconds she had a plan mapped out of what the team was to do. As she diagrammed the plays she quietly and confidently concluded that each of them would end with us scoring. There wasn’t even a hint of doubt and her confidence was contagious. After executing those three plays just as she had instructed and with the outcome she anticipated, we tied the score with mere seconds left forcing the game into overtime. By the time overtime started, the other team was already defeated. We ultimately won the game by 10 points. As the players came off the floor she said again, “I told you… stranger things have happened!” She was truly a gifted and amazing Coach. You are loved (AGAPE) and dearly missed, Coach! I pray you are enjoying lots of fishing with the Lord in heaven.