Tuesday, February 28, 2006

How Basketball Changed My Life - Methodist Campus Ministry E-Letter

Dear Friends,
Today is absolutely beautiful!  Amazing how a day can start off so cold and end up so warm.  Kind of like life.  This coming Sunday we are looking at more spiritual truth from Napoleon Dynomite.  Again, Napoleon has so much to say about the redemptive power of friendship.  This time we are going to look at how our friendships can be just the “Good News” that the world needs.
Thursday night we are having our Bi-Annual Game Night at the Wesley Foundation.  This is going to be so much fun.  Free food, good fellowship, lots of laughs.  I think we don’t laugh nearly enough in life.  This is an opportunity at add some joy to the semester.  But more about that later.
Now for Sami’s Ramblings About Jesus:
This is the story of how basketball changed my life.  You may be thinking, “Great.  Another testimony from an athlete that found Jesus.”  Well no.  No one has ever in the history of the universe ever called me an athlete (although I did learn to play volleyball in college and our co-ed church B league team won the championship).  And it wasn’t sports that led me to give my life to Christ.  In fact, since my earliest days I’ve been in relationship with Jesus.  No, the great sport of basketball is not responsible for my conversion.  But I am married to someone who loves the game.
I must admit that my earliest days as a basketball wife are not praiseworthy.  You see, for my husband basketball has been the passion of his life for as long as I have known him.  Just like I felt called into ministry and that God wanted to use my life for His glory there, Tim felt called to be a coach and that God would use him in that area.  It took me years to understand what that meant, a couple more to accept and embrace it, a couple more to enjoy it.  I remember in the early days of our marriage I was jealous of the time he spent with basketball, wanting instead for him to be spending time with me.  If anyone could lay on the thickest guilt trip, it would be me. 
I don’t know when the Lord began to change my heart, but I know that it happened.  God began to show me that the best parts of the man I loved were there because of his passion for basketball and that if I removed basketball I would lose everything about this man that made him so precious to me.  The Lord began to show me that as He put Tim in coaching positions, He was putting him in places where he could change the world around him for good, bringing glory to God’s name.  While I often fumed about how much things in my area of ministry never changed, God showed me that Tim’s quiet, basketball witness was changing attitudes and hearts everywhere he went, simply because he lives his life as a coach with a deep integrity and commitment to be God’s man in that position.  People may not even know they are hearing the gospel when they interact with Tim, but his life is a living testimony.
At some point the Lord melted my cold disinterest in a sport I could never play and opened my heart to the potential for changing lives through a simple game. 
Last night I spent the evening watching Tim coach his girl’s varsity basketball team in the first game of the district tournament.  The last time a team from his school even won this particular game to be the District Runner-up was in 1998.  His team had lost the last 5 previous games.  Their opponent had already beaten them two other times this season and were coming into the game having won their last 5 previous games.  Both teams played hard.  At the end of the last buzzer it was tied.  Tim’s team had yet to win a game in over-time this season.  It didn’t look good.  But Tim never gave up that game.  Those girls never gave up that game.  Four agonizing minutes later they won by 4 points. 
I wept.  After a long season of disappointment, they won a victory that no one thought they could win.
I am continuously amazed at the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Sometimes the metaphor for hope that I find most convincing is the basketball floor, where victories and losses play themselves out in a very personal way in my household.  It is like that in life too.  When we least expect a victory, Jesus brings the good news of the resurrection.  Even to that which seems most dead to us.
So Tim, I know you are reading this.  Thank you for being the one God has used to teach me the most important lessons about not giving up, facing the facts, and then digging deep.  Thank you for reminding me that when we least expect it, something wonderful can happen.  Thank you for showing me that God isn’t done with us yet.  I love you.
And for those of you who are not Tim, join us on Thursday night for Game Night.  It is a simple thing to enjoy the company of friends and play a good game of ping-pong.  But it is a profound thing to realize that the presence of Jesus makes something even as simple as a game among friends an opportunity for the gospel to come to life.

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