Human beings are complex, our actions even when thoughtless are not random. We speak and also act out of the abundance that is in our heart (Luke 6:45). There are many arenas in life that are the proverbial “squeezing of the sponge”, ringing out what is already inside of us. In some scenarios we merely see a trickle of our hearts desires and motives, but other arena’s can bring about a gushing display of what is going on inside of us. Sports, in all its varying levels of competition and fields, courts or stadiums, has the potential to produce this gushing display. One could refer to this phenomenon as the Laboratory of Sports. Bob Schindler recently wrote an article for Faith Driven Athlete exploring this very topic. A synopsis of this article is below, highlighting the key points. (Link to the full article here)
The Laboratory of Sports
I was playing basketball one Monday night at the church we were attending after recently moving to Charlotte, NC. A long rebound came my way, I went racing down the court to make the game winning basket, insuring we would be on the court for another game. Just as I was about to lay the ball in, I got pushed from behind with the hardest push I had ever experienced in my basketball days. I flew into the unprotected concrete block wall. Fortunately, I caught my balance and cushioned my fall. I was shaken but wasn’t hurt.
Under my breath, I muttered, “I will take him out the next time down the court.” The opportunity to fulfill that vow came as he moved to my left to drive to the basket with the ball. I stuck out my left knee to block his path, purposely trying to trip him. He went sprawling to the floor. No words were exchanged.
As I went to the sidelines to await the next game, I had the thought, “What was that about Bob?” I knew God was probing.
As I examined and dialogued with Him, it quickly became clear that my anger at the opposing player was disproportionate to the incident. What he did was wrong, but I was seething. I knew from experience to probe further. But first, I had to apologize.
After that night, I reflected on my anger. I had learned that anger is always a secondary emotion. There are always other emotions beneath the anger, something more vulnerable, harder to admit and embrace. Going further down, I came to see that the move had exposed some vulnerability in me. In that vulnerability, I was afraid about what the future held for me and my family. In addition, I was also grieving what we left behind.
Former UCLA Coach John Wooden famously said, “Sports don’t build character. They reveal it.” Wooden didn’t stop there though. Wooden would then use sports to “rebuild” what is “revealed.” His famous Pyramid of Success is built on that revealing and rebuilding.
I like to think of sports as a laboratory. A lab is a safe environment in which to experiment. In these safe experiments, things come to light, things are revealed. Lessons learned here can be applied to a much broader context than the lab.
That night the laboratory of basketball revealed my anger. It was already there before that night. God used basketball to show it to me and expose it to others! Once out, I could examine it and learn.
From there, I could turn to God, find comfort and then move on in trust. God used basketball to not only reveal but build my character.