Shooting Off Balance

I’m not a sports fan. I don’t dislike sports. I’m just not a fan.

I once was a fan of football and basketball. I followed teams and players, kept up with rule changes, and made certain that I was in place when my teams played.

Then, I became busy with other things — some important, some not so much. My interest in sports waned and I found myself drawn only to game highlights. Without the thread of the backstory, I soon found myself wondering why I had ever watched at all. And why millions and millions of people seem to live only for sports.

Some of you, many of my friends among you, will say that I am the way I am because I never really played a sport. And because of that, I don’t understand. I can see some truth in that. Except I think we all have experienced what ABC Sports used to call “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Sports is a human story with good parts and bad parts.

Life is a human story with good parts and bad parts. And I know the good part that we like the best. I saw two examples of it this morning at the gym on the sports highlight show blaring from the wall in the weight room.

One baseball player and one basketball player. Two different sports. Two different cities. Telling the same story.

When I was growing up and making a feeble attempt to play sports, the adults who coached me wisely told me to pay attention to my form. “Watch your balance and body position!” In summary, do everything possible before you throw the ball or shoot for the basket to give yourself the best odds of success. So, we studied and practiced form every day. As a result, I had a pretty good shot in basketball. Too bad I couldn’t overcome being short and slow with better form.

So we exalt the virtue of form in┬ádealing with all things — both sports and life — from a perfect model. Yet, neither life nor sports grants us the constant opportunity for good form.

As I watched the highlights reel this morning, I saw these two players — over and over again — make an impossible throw or sink an unbelievable shot. The game situation didn’t allow for balance or form. The game called for action. And they delivered in a way that even fans found incredible.

So, your coaches from sports and from life are right. You need to know and practice form in all you do. Learn the right way to do things. Practice. Observe. Correct. Practice again.

And then realize that most of the moments you are called to action will not present the opportunity to be in balance. You will have to shoot the ball off balance. You will have to do your job in adverse conditions. You will have to love the unlovable as they curse you and spit in your face.

Peacemakers, because peace is not an absolute condition in this imperfect world, we need to learn the best practices of our calling. Yet, we need to stand ready and eager to give our best in the face of imperfection. Our preparation and God’s hand will make it work.

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