Up until 4th grade I had never lost a race on the playground at Hoover Elementary School in Iowa City. Then it happened. Luke Moore beat me and I was devastated. I came home crying to my mom after school. My mom is a caring person who didn’t care whether I was the fastest kid or not but she refused to let us have a victim’s mentality. If I was upset I should do something about it. So I called my grandpa who, at 80 years old was the Cornell College track coach, and he set me up with a workout plan that I did religiously. It was complete with a broom handle with milk jugs full of sand on each end so that I could do squats (seriously).
When I was in high school I had an all consuming desire to play Div 1 basketball in college. I rarely took a day off. When we would go on vacation I got a week long membership to the YMCA in Sturgeon Bay Wisconsin so I could do my ball handling routine and my shooting workouts. I would wake up early so that I could be back to the cottage in time for my family to wake up.
My freshman year of high school I would lift weights before school, ride the city bus to a tennis lesson across town after school, walk to the Fieldhouse to play basketball and then around 8:00 call home and have my mom come pick me up.
I was obsessed.
My mom is a smart woman. She knew I was a below average athlete on the basketball court and no matter how hard I worked I might never reach my goals. Every time I left the house to workout she would say;
“Be sure it is worth it even if you don’t reach your goals.”
This sunk in. I embraced the journey. I refused to be bitter. I worked hard but I didn’t play Division 1 basketball and had no regrets.
There are more than enough opportunities to be bitter everyday. Bitter because we didn’t get what we thought we deserved. Bitter because someone isn’t treating us the way we want. Bitter because we give to our spouse more than we receive. Bitter because our kids don’t respond as graciously as we think they should. Bitter because my love is not being noticed or reciprocated. Bitter because we are unappreciated.
Bitterness is not helpful. Bitterness is not productive.
I want to love without expectation of anything in return.
I want to serve without any strings attached.
I want to work hard without needing that to be appreciated.
This is how Jesus loves us.
It is easy to look back and think I was misguided. It is harder to deal with the reality that in a lot of ways I have just replaced basketball success with professional accomplishment.
The scriptures talk about “Taking hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 16:19)
Apparently it is possible to be living without truly living. I don’t want to settle for that.
It is true I didn’t play Division One basketball but just to be clear I never lost to Luke Moore in a race again.