The Super Bowl means mozzarella sticks and Totino's pizza pockets. The end. Other than that, I'm content to indulge in fatty foods and carbonated drink whether or not "my" team wins. Pass the chips, por favor. Thanks.
Everyone knows I'm a complete wet blanket when it comes to sports. Not to mention a clueless dimwit. Fun fact: It wasn't until a couple months ago that I figured out what a "down" was in football. It was my understanding that football people with their unfathomable expertise accepted this seemingly random determination of who got the ball and when. You can imagine my elation when a "down" ended up in the same category as an "out" in baseball (baseball is so easy to crack for simplistic brains like mine) - and that was logical. I could deal with that.
My understanding of basketball runs along the same line. I don't understand why a jump ball is called when the ball handler is flat out on his stomach. "Travel!" was something infuriated opposing fans hollered at the referee. All I knew is that when everyone else clapped - clap; when everyone else booed - comment on the poor reffing in an intelligently naive way. (It's the same as politely smiling at a joke when you have no idea what just hit you.)
Now, there are downfalls to this system. Sometimes one becomes so confident in ignorance that she claps when everyone else boos - the hard lot of a know-nothing fan. I do my best. I can do no more.
I do know what a rebound is: the ball goes up in the air, nicely misses the rim - everyone dives into this invisible center - and then they wrestle until the ref blows the whistle, gives someone a foul for a jump ball and starts the game all over again. Simple. But don't praise me for my genius. After watching a million homeschool basketball games and going deaf from parents screaming REBOUND! REBOUND!, I ought to know.
Indeed, that's the singular thing teams needed to work on - besides passing and making free throws and not traveling and staying in bounds and other minor things like that. Offense went well. Defense - and the ominous rebound coming up - went worse.
Here I switch to the main point of my post which you never saw coming. The elation of sweeping down the court and slam dunking the ball - so effortless - so free - is the epitome of basketball. So the Gatorade commercials of sweat-dripping six-footers appear to say. The wrestle at the rebound - not so much. Maybe in Nike commercials.
So too in our spiritual life. I came home from a girls' conference at age eleven, more naive about the spiritual than sports, and I was pumped up and ready to serve the Lord. My heart realigned with Scripture, my head on straight, my kinks and quirks worked out - yes. I was ready. I had found Christ.
And then, immediately as I walked in the door, someone said something nasty to me - really uncalled for and rather atypical to that person. In a fluke of nature, I responded kindly and ignored the nastiness. I don't remember the comment nor what I said, but I do remember it making an impression on me - the kind of event that gets me thinking for a good hour before falling asleep at midnight.
Instead of being reaffirmed in my faith, encouraged in my walk - the very first thing that met me was attack. Rudeness. Faith-killing criticism that wasn't even (for once) stimulated by my own sin.
I had another think-on-my-bunk-bed moment the other night. If you've ever had a bad week, you know in part what it's like to have a bad year, multiplied and intensified by X amount of weeks in twelve months. But I had determined to change things. And immediately after I resolved that, I knew what was coming next - I remembered that incident six years ago.
Fact: There is an enemy out there.
Fact: He hates repentance.
Fact: His favorite tactic is to take away the resolve by taking away the joy.
When we determine to read the Bible every day, he kills our appetite for it. When we kneel down to pray, he sends our failures niggling into our minds, paralyzing us from freely fellowshipping with our Redeemer. When we say we're going to change, he invites bad moments and bad memories to remind us, "Remember how you've said you're going to change seventy times seven times? And here you are saying it again. It won't last."
And we get discouraged. He's right. We have repeated that over and over, each as sincere as the last and the next. And nothing ever changes. We always fail.
We always forget that the path to change is not a float down the court and a winning slam dunk. Immediately after we get the ball rolling, so to speak, there's the rebound: that time where our joy is at its height and easy to shoot down because it's so open and fragile, so untested.
Wait for it. The rebound happens. Know it will happen. Freak not out if it does. If you expect it, you can beat it and wrestle your way to victory - in the Lord's strength.