When Life Has You Benched

fullsizerender-3I think it’s best to start this post with a disclaimer, a little clarification, that in no way, at all, am I implying I know much about anything involving sports. This post was comprised from a few Google searches and my own personal observations of a seventh grade basketball team. I’ve learned a lot.

Our oldest son has a love for fishing, soccer and basketball. He didn’t inherit any of those passions from his mom, and only one of them he can trace back to his dad. Jaron began playing soccer when he was four and basketball at five. Actually, he has interest in pretty much any physical outdoor or sporting activity, but over the years we have watched him hone in on his favorites.

You can only imagine our excitement and enthusiasm for him to play school ball this year. Attending games with parents we’ve met throughout the years of Upwards and booster club. Sitting in the stands watching him play in the same basketball gym we cheered players when we were students. Anticipating new memories with each game on the schedule. It was going to be great!

Well… wasn’t what we thought it’d be.

Honestly, I could just stop there.

How many times are we pumped up for a season and it doesn’t unfold into what we thought it’d be?

Like showing up every single day, early, and staying late giving every ounce of effort you have without a complaint and then being passed over for the promotion. Not what you’d thought it’d be.

Like getting up and sticking to that treadmill routine, staying disciplined to the eating plan, resisting the popcorn at the movies while every single person in your group is having some, with extra butter, only to get on the scale the next week and see not one pound has been shed from the efforts.

Like doing pre-marital counseling, making a ten-year plan, praying with and for your spouse, investing in their dreams and goals by personal sacrifice of time and money, then not feeling growth but rather decline in the marriage relationship.

Sometimes things don’t go as planned.

Sometimes things aren’t what we thought it’d be.

Kinda like seventh grade basketball for Jaron. He was eager. He was excited. He was at practice every single morning, five days a week, not missing one. He was on time, and even occasionally early when he could get his mom out the door to drive him there. He’d get home in the evening and practice free-throws, lay-ups and three pointers. He would shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot. Whether it was ten degrees or seventy, because yes, we have those temperature swings regularly in Oklahoma, he was out there working to improve.

So you can imagine how hard it was for us to watch him sit the bench. One game he didn’t play at all. Not at all.

Oh the parent inside. You know the parent inside. I wanted to give the coach some insight into my child’s hard work. I also wanted to ask him why not only my child was sitting the bench, but several other boys, who were good ball players. I saw a team of talent being overlooked. But every now and then God shows me how He’s growing me, because this communicator who feels everything can be worked out for the better with a good discussion never said one word. Not to the coach anyway. But to the Lord and my husband, I poured out my heart.

At one point this was dropped into my heart,

“Heather, you have prayed for years now that Jaron would know the difference between confidence and arrogance. Allow the opportunities to teach him.

And wow—the opportunity taught him so very much.

A couple things we talked about were….

Perseverance, Dedication & Commitment

The Lord spoke through my heart that one day Jaron may not feel appreciated or valued at his job, but he’s going to give his best because he’s personally learned what is it to have perseverance, dedication and commitment. That one day, when he experiences difficult times in his marriage, he’s going to continue giving his best because he’s learned what is it to have perseverance, dedication and commitment. And that was developed on the bench, not on the court.

Another quality developed on the bench—a mindset of service.

After one of the games I said to him, “Jaron, I couldn’t have been more proud of you if you were out there scoring every point. I watched you sit on that bench, knowing how deeply you desired to be playing, and you were cheering and encouraging your teammates. Not an ounce of the disappointment you felt kept you from staying focused on the team.”

Toward the latter part of the season, Jaron’s playing time increased quite a bit. And with it came the discussions emphasizing the mindset of service. “Serve the team well. If you have an opportunity to play, play for the team, not for yourself. That way, when you’re pulled out, it’s not about you, but about what’s best for the team.”

I get it. No one wants to sit on the bench. Here’s where my Google search got me. There were over fifty players on the rosters for the 2017 Super Bowl teams. Only eleven players from each team were on the field at a time. That’s a lot of players all dressed up to sit the bench for the most-watched television-sporting event of the year. But they’re still getting something out of it. And so do we!

“What do you mean, Heather?” I’m glad you wondered!

I’m talking about Romans 8:17 NLT “And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering.”

May make ya wanna skip them both altogether. The glory may not be worth the suffering. Oh, but when the Lord is involved it is.

We are made into who He intended for us to be. We are developed beyond the tendencies of our nature. We are molded into more.

When life has you benched, when it feels it’s not worth the work, or the trouble, or the commitment, or the dedication, or the pain, or the suffering; remember, that in this world, all of it may very well seem worthless, but to God it’s the ingredients to produce something of great value!

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Give Me a Break

There was a commercial back in the ‘90s with a catchy tune, which sang, “give me a break, give me break; break me off a piece of that….” Do you remember it? Of course you do! “Break me off a piece of that KitKat bar!” From a brief Internet search, I learned the KitKat was originally launched in London in 1935. Who knew KitKats had been around so long? When I think of KitKats, I think of my Grandma Cochrane, my Dad’s mom, who always kept a stash of them in the crisper of her fridge. I think I ate enough of them as a kid to last my lifetime. These memories came back to me after a discussion with my oldest son. Jaron has had a desire to play football since he was little. His Dad and I agreed 3rd grade would be more of an ideal age to begin playing. Well, when 3rd grade arrived, Jaron had been invited to join a soccer team. I may have played that up a bit much since I was still concerned about his size and him signing up for a high impact sport. While I gave it my best efforts to guide him toward soccer, his Dad was respectably neutral and we left the decision up to Jaron. He chose to play another year of soccer. Then 4th grade rolled around and we completely missed the sign-ups. We tried our best to get him on a team, but it didn’t happen. To further complicate the situation, we barely got him back in soccer. Needless to say, it was a monumental parent fail. But he was so gracious and understanding.

By the spring of this year we were signed up for football! Well, Jaron was signed up, and incredibly excited! July arrived and he got his pads and helmet, the excitement escalating. And then practices started! Wow! This was official now. No more throwing the football around at recess. This was the real deal.

Jaron was placed in a variety of positions to determine where he’d best suit the team. One thing, they decided he was a good punter. Seems all those seasons of soccer was a benefit in that area. But they also had him playing tight end and quarterback.

Now. Let me take a brief moment and state a disclaimer. I don’t know much about sports. My Dad didn’t play….at all. I mean my Dad didn’t have any hobbies. He truly was a workaholic. He didn’t hunt, fish, golf, nothing. Therefore, my encounters with sports have been very limited until my son. I try to keep somewhat close to my husband at the games to ask questions, since I don’t fully know what’s going on. Making goals and touchdowns I understand, but the technicalities, rules and positions, I need a little help with. But I am learning. I enjoyed soccer more with every passing season. Baseball has been a lot of fun too. Hearing the sound of the bat sending the ball across the field is exhilarating. Basketball is INTENSE! Man, now that’s a game that can change at the drop of a dime. So suspenseful, but I absolutely loved watching. Now here we are with football. There’s nothing more Oklahoman than football in the fall. We’re all so thrilled to be a part of it, even though some of us have a little more to learn than others; it’s equally as exciting.

The anticipation for the first scrimmage was high. Jaron had literally waited years to play. For a ten year old, that feels like a lifetime. He played his position as tight end, he fulfilled his role as punter and then he got put in as quarterback. The play started. Before any time, he was sacked. Then another play. Sacked again. Then another. Sacked.

When we got in the car we passed headphones out to the other three kids and put on a movie. I said, “Jaron, Dad is concerned about how you played, but I’m your Mom and I want to know how you feel.” I thought my heart was going to fall out of my chest when I heard his answer. My son who is always eager to learn, driven to succeed, striving to shine, answered in the most solemn tone, “Like I shouldn’t have signed up.” With much prompting to share his thoughts, he began to express how it was his fault the plays were incomplete. He felt entirely responsible for the defeat. He felt like a total failure. It was so discouraging listening to his perception that he shouldn’t have even tried.

You may be thinking, “Oh, poor guy.” But you do it to yourself too! We all do. It came together for me while listening to him speak. I had just done it the week before. My recertification for NRP didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked. No worries. I’m recertified. But I had higher expectations for myself. I left with dreadful thoughts about my abilities as a neonatal nurse. It’s like if we don’t perform as a star then we aren’t good enough to participate. GIVE ME A BREAK! Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves?

My son neglected to remember he had an entire team on the field. He felt solely responsible for the results of the scrimmage. I overlooked the fact that four other people were participating in our mock code. I accepted feelings of inadequacy. And why? Did anyone imply those judgments? No. We did it to ourselves.

It’s good to desire improvement. My resolution to my internal frustration was purchase my own material, consistently study and make the information solid, like my favorite dish in which I no longer even need the recipe to make. That happens with constant interaction with the material. The same goes with anything in life. You study what you want to know, what you want to become. And we encouraged Jaron to do the same thing. Watch more football games. Study your plays. Ask the coach questions.

Again. It’s good to desire improvement, but stop beating yourself up. Give yourself a break. Give your all, and when it’s not enough, go back to the drawing board, regroup, come up with another plan or approach. But give yourself a break.

Even those considered “go getters” can get sacked so many times it causes them to feel like failures and therefore feel like giving up. I truly believe that the greatest, grandest and most meaningful plans the Lord has for our lives are going to come with maximum challenge and will require our utmost determination, strength and fortitude; found only in Him.

You see, when we confront our limitations, it doesn’t mean we can’t succeed; it means we identify the source to succeed. Give yourself a break! Put your reliance on the Source, the Creator of the goals and desires springing from your heart.

I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken. Psalm 62:1-2 NLT


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