Saturday, January 18, 2014

Why Each Day is Practice

I played basketball in high school. My father was my coach.

I remember one day, in particular, when I was working on free throws after practice. I'm not sure how much you know about shooting free throws, but there's a technical rule that, when followed, adds an accurate finesse to the shot; Everything needs to "line up." Toe lines up with knee. Knee lines up with elbow. Elbow lines up with wrist follow-through. It's a smooth vertical transition. Done. Shot made. Nothing but net. 

Unless something is out of line, which can make your shot pull to one side or the other. The smallest glitch in your technique can interfere with the outcome.  So something about my shot was "off," and the shots just weren't falling. Coach stood under the goal, watching each attempt, and targeting my error. Comments like "Elbow's out," or "Follow through, straight at the goal," would precede each rebound.

All I had to do was listen to my father. My coach. He was there to help me. He was there to determine what I was doing wrong and to guide me to correct those errors. He could see my efforts from a different pespective, and I could trust his direction. All I had to do was listen to him and follow his guidance.

The problem was that I was tired. Practice had ended long before my private lesson began, and I was ready to be done with it all at that point. I wanted everything to line up; I wanted the shots to fall; and I wanted the satisfaction of a successful attempt. But nothing was working out like I wanted. So naturally, I was frustrated.

My father continued to prompt me to correct each flaw, and still the shots weren't falling. Finally, I spoke out of frustration. I'm sure I was rude, but I don't remember exactly what I said.

What I do remember is my father's response. He watched my shot- another missed one- and he caught the rebound. Then he just held the ball. Saying nothing. Waiting until he had my full attention. Then, he calmly said "Leslie, don't bite the hand that feeds you."

I don't remember whether or not I apologized to him that day. I remember catching the ball, along with the weight of his words. I remember taking a deep breath and trying again. And again. And again. Until the shots started to fall. Until we ended practice on a "good one," my father's personal practice rule.

On some days, I recall that moment and think, "Gah, what a brat..."

Then there are those other days... Those days when I try and try and try again, but things just don't line up like I want them to. Those days when, despite my greatest efforts, nothing falls into place. In those moments, I frown in frustration, or drown in doubt. Instead of listening to the One who can see a far greater perspective than I, instead of following His guidance, I bite the outstretched hand that feeds me. 

Those words; they can cut deep, can't they?

After my own storm of rage, I hear my words again. And while I should be left there, alone to figure it out by myself because that's what I deserve, God just waits on me. Waits for my doubt to pass. Waits for me to come to the end of myself so I can hear his words clearly. 

Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

Now, listen. Now, try. Now, trust. 

And always, make sure each day ends on a "good one"... A good moment of gratitude for the grace extended even in those moments, when I deserve it the least.