When I was 14 years old, my old man did not want me to quit playing football.
I had been playing baseball and football at Oaks Dad’s Club in northwest Houston since I was eight. I loved it. I was good at it. The teams I was on won championships, and I was an all-star player. In junior high, I started running track and playing basketball, as well.
Sports was my life.
So much fun, and so much pain.
Then came the season when I ran up against a football coach who was loud, abrasive, abusive, degrading. A respected and admired coach, with great teams every year, an incredible winning record, and I assume nothing less than good intentions – it was a volunteer gig, after all – but not the style of coach for a sensitive, struggling-with-confidence, insecure but talented kid like me.
Some people respond best to a kick in the butt; some need a pat on the back. I am one of the latter.
So one day, after Coach Augie enthusiastically ridiculed me, the starting quarterback, in front of the entire team and all the parents who were there watching practice – some of the fathers did not even try to hide their amusement – for not doing something correctly, I decided to quit.
When it was time for football practice the next day, I walked down the hall from my bedroom to my parents’ room, where my dad was changing clothes after work to take me to practice, and announced my intentions.
“No, you’re not,” he said.
“Yes, I am.”
Long story, short, I won the battle, but lost the war.
What my dad knew that I did not was not only that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” but learning to quit comes easily and quickly. Every time a person quits something, it becomes easier and easier to do it again.
Within a year, I had quit playing all sports. Turned my back on everything I loved – everything that made me, me – and walked away.
Without sports, I was lost at sea. I no longer had an identity, no longer had a crowd to be a part of; no longer had any idea who I was. That first year away from sports was a tough one, a lonely time; and then one day, I came to a fork in the road of life and I made a serious wrong turn that led me through years and years of pain and torment.
All because I became a quitter.
In the Bible, James 1:12 says: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
This, of course, refers to trusting in God’s help to get through trying times, and coming out on the other side awash in the Lord’s loving grace. I am not sure that applies to my sports analogy, but I do believe that if I had stuck it out and battled through the tough times, I would have come out a better person, and most likely would have avoided most, if not all, of the trials and tribulations I put myself through over the next 20 years or so.
Having said that, maybe if I had been a follower of Christ at that time and turned my life over to God, sought His direction, guidance and counsel, I would have had the strength to push through the hard times and continue pursuing what I truly loved.
If I had trusted in God way back when, my life might have been a lot different. Who knows? It is said that things happen for a reason, and the important part about making mistakes is to learn from them.
I am still hard-headed and don’t like to depend on other people, but I’m learning to let down my guard somewhat.
John 12:37 says, “Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.”
I am pretty sure I would have been one of that crowd.
But, hey, we seek spiritual progress, not perfection.
If making progress is a good thing, then I am doing all right, I suppose.
Slowly but surely.
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