I didn’t make the team

I’m not a born athlete.

In fact, quite the opposite. I was born with the odds stacked against me. I burst onto the cosmos 2 months premature, weighing just over 2 lbs. Certainly not the poster child of a future athletic prodigy.

My foray into sports began when I was 5 and joined a community soccer league. I played for 7 years. Never scored a goal.

After all of my success with soccer, I decided to become a 2-sport athlete and tried my hand a basketball. I was nearly unbeatable. The only problem is that my average competition was around 3 years younger and 2 feet shorter than me.

Nonetheless, my newfound confidence led me to try out for the middle school basketball team. While I was full of passion and hustle, I think the coach was looking for talent…which is where I fell woefully short. Much to my surprise, I didn’t make the team.

That’s ok – I’m a middle child. I know how to adapt. Perhaps I hadn’t found my sport yet.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school. I decided to give running a shot. Afterall, everyone makes the cross-country team. Despite having legs that belong to a 6 year old girl, I set my mind on becoming a distance runner. Heck, I even went to practice. Twice.

I’ll never forget my first race. It was an overcast, cool, dewy morning. There were hundreds of people in the large park where the race was held. You could hear officials on bullhorns directing teams and heats to their appropriate races. It was electric.

Finally, it was our turn. Lined up with a sea of other runners, I remember thinking to myself, “I’m going to win this thing.” Again, my naïve confidence wasn’t particularly grounded in reality.

The gun fired, and we took off.

It was the first time I’d ever ran 3.2 miles. I had no idea how to pace myself. So I just tried to run fast. And I did…for about a mile. Then, I began to slow and the more experienced and conditioned runners (which was pretty much everyone) zipped past me.

While I didn’t “win” the race, I did finish. It was a dramatic conclusion.

(Enter “Chariots of Fire” theme song and switch to slo-mo)

By the time I could see the finish line, I felt like I’d been underwater for 20 minutes and was desperately gasping for air. I’m sure the look of pain, exhaustion, and stale adrenaline consumed my countenance. I resolved to exert what little energy I had left in my tank, primarily because I just wanted it all to end as soon as possible.

After I crossed the finish line, I immediately collapsed to the ground and rolled out of the way. I thought I was going to die. So did the paramedics who were there on standby. I embarrassingly refused treatment via sign language because speaking required breathing, which wasn’t my strong suit at the time.

I guess when you’re one of the last people to complete a race, they don’t let you run through one of those cool ribbons. That’s when I decided running wasn’t for me either.

As I look back on my adolescent athletic endeavors, I can now identify the primary reason for my mediocrity. Sure, I wasn’t the most talented. But, the bigger issue is that I was never really big on practice. I just wanted to race. I wanted the thrill of victory without the discipline of preparation.

The apostle Paul encouraged his young friend and pastor in training in this way:

“…train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7)

Becoming a good runner doesn’t happen accidentally. I suppose the same is true when it comes to being like Jesus. It’s requires patience, consistency, work…discipline. Historically, I’ve stunk at this. But, I am trying to grow.

And at the end of the day, I think that’s what Jesus wants. Not perfection. Just an honest desire to be with and more like Him. And hopefully, that desire will lead us to action. And that action will usher us into this adventure that God invites us to every single day.

“O Begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises.

You may acquire the taste which you have not:

what is tedious at first will afterward be pleasant.

Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily.

It’s is for your life; there is not other way”

-John Wesley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ministry is Messy

I love things to be in order. From a very early age, I was a perfectionist. Every item in my room had its place…an exact place. I would dust and vacuum my room at least 1x a week. Strange for an 8 year old boy.

As I found my way to my teenage years, my obsessive compulsive nature began to subside. However, now that I’ve settled back into the fact that I’m weird, my true self has resurfaced.

I love things to be in order. I like things to be neat, clean, and organized. This is how i’m wired – and I’m good with that.

This propensity tends to rear its head in my ministry role. As a student ministries pastor, I love for our students to have things together. I love to hear and know that they’re falling in love with Jesus, growing in their understanding of who they are in Him, and all that jazz. I guess the problem is that sometimes I desire these things for the wrong reasons.

If everyone in our ministry is neat, clean, and organized, that means I’m a good pastor, right? It means our ministry is effective…transforming…life changing. If our kids are a mess, doesn’t that communicate that the leadership is a mess?!

If you’ve seen the movies “The Truman Show” or “The Stepford Wives” maybe you’re beginning to get my point. Sometimes, we put so much energy into looking like we have it all together, that we never focus on the reality that we’re all a mess, in desperate need of God’s grace. Every day.

Jesus had lots of choice words for Pharisees who worked really hard to keep up appearances of having everything together. Jesus knew that people are messy. Look at the people He attracted – they were all kinds of messy. Still are.

I guess at the end of the day, we’re all messy. Especially me. But isn’t that why we do what we do? We get to step into the messiness of life, junk, sin, lostness (if that’s a word) and get to offer Truth, hope, and healing in the midst of the mess.

It’s a privilege to be invited by folks who know they’re a mess to speak into their lives. It sure beats the alternative – clean outsides, rotten insides.

So, at the end of the day, I’m good with the fact that our ministry might look a little disheveled and tattered to the outsider, or even my boss. Because that’s real. It’s authentic. It IS a reflection of leadership, because we leaders are a mess too.

In the words of Henri Nouwen, “We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for.

The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.”

Amen.