Playing time is not my platform

 
Jesus has never been much of a stranger. I grew up in a home that sang veggie tales on the way to catholic mass. I grew up knowing God was good all the time, and all the time, God was good. High school was no different. I was a big fan of Jesus, and so were the people I surrounded myself with. The genuine and loving faith relationships that filled my high school years helped grow, nurture, and strengthen my faith. After growing up in the same small town for 18 years, people didn’t exactly question my religious motives or morals. Rather they understood and encouraged my outgoing Christian lifestyle. Because of this, I never really questioned my faith; I just lived it.

Finishing up my senior year of high school, I was excited beyond measure to attend Trine University in the fall and play basketball. I had already met with my future teammates, coaches, and even the campus minister, and knew this was exactly where I was supposed to be. Great things were coming. I soon realized, however, my plans for the next four years were very different than God’s.

My college teammates quickly became some of my best friends, but these girls were very different than the small group of friends I had in high school. They did not automatically understand or know my values, and it was obvious I was behind the game in the realm of how to have fun and “be cool.” An outgoing faith was not one that was accepted everywhere. My talk of Jesus in everyday conversation was odd to people, and I soon became “the Christian girl.” Luckily, my teammates respected my faith, but they also were not afraid to question it. I was significantly less prepared to explain it to them than I would like to admit.

I vividly remember one of my teammates coming home drunk and very upset. She questioned why I believed in a God that let bad things happen and allowed us to suffer. After she went to bed I cried for an hour in the hallway. I felt so inadequate, unable to give this girl a decent answer to something I claimed so strongly. Similar situations like this began to happen. People asked me why I didn’t drink, went to church every Sunday and prayed before meals. They were not satisfied with “the Bible says so” answer. I became unsatisfied with this answer as well. I began to question. Why would God want me in an environment where I was questioning Him or my faith? This wasn’t the encouraging and nurturing environment I had grown up in. It was one that made me question my faith and the choices I was making in regards to it.

The questioning only progressed as basketball season started. As an athlete, the transition from being a senior to being a freshman again is always a challenge. You jump right back down to the bottom of the totem pole. I got that reality check quickly as I was put on the JV squad. After a month or so, I was moved up to varsity. This was a sigh of relief, and I assumed God was just working on my patience. But then I moved up only to ride the varsity bench. That was not in my game plan. How was I able to bring God glory if I was sitting on the bench? If I didn’t have a platform to share His love, how was any of this supposed to work? I had all these nonbelievers around me that were questioning my faith, yet here I was with no platform to share it with them. I figured God had missed a step somewhere. At this point, I was sure God was shaking His head at me.

But then it hit me. God showed me how He really had given me the best platform. It was a humble platform. A servant’s platform. My platform.

In the world of sports, our worth and joy comes in the form of points scored or minutes played. It is easy to give God the glory when things are going well. However, how do we rejoice in Him in the losses, praise Him when we’re on the bench, or give Him the credit when we don’t see the floor? It took a while, but I soon realized these are the times when God wants us to praise Him the most. This is the platform God has provided me with to minister not only to my teammates and my coaches, but fans and peers as well.

In James 1:2-4 it says,

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

It says to view troubles as an opportunity. My lack of playing time could be used as an opportunity. Being surrounded by people who were new or didn’t know about Jesus was an opportunity. They were opportunities to support, serve, remain joyful and be an example, thinking of how my role can better serve the team. They were opportunities to grow in the realization that my worth and true joy came from Christ and Christ alone.

People notice when you act outside of the way society expects, especially if the society your surrounded by is different from yourself. When you choose love over hate and joy over bitterness, people notice. This is your platform. Your actions, not your situations, create the platform to share the gospel and love on people.

I am a junior. As my role has changed over the years of basketball, I am still not a starter or a conference player of the week. Most of the time we must be up by at least 20 for me to see the floor. I still struggle to have all the answers, but I am confident this is where God intended me to be. He has given me a unique opportunity to spread His love, and to find worth in Him, not the game. He has challenged me in ways I never thought, and it has been wonderful to see Him work.  My faith has been broken down and rebuilt throughout my three years here, and I’ve never been more joyful and free through this platform of servant hood and breaking out of comfort zones.

 

 

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