Basketball and God

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My 5th grade nephew doing his thing last season.

I doubt many folks think of God when they think of basketball. I’m sure a multitude of prayers

have been lifted up from courts and stands across the nation with the desperate hope of a buzzer-beating shot. But on the daily, not so much.

I certainly didn’t relate the two until a couple of months ago. I was in the middle of a personal retreat, wrestling with my soul-crushing inability to allow God’s love to define my worth rather than work and ministry. It was an agonizing couple of days struggling to traverse the deep canyon from head knowledge to heart knowledge. My head knows God’s unconditional love constitutes my worth. My heart, however, tends to think God is far too nice to hurt my feelings by telling me how much I’ve disappointed him. Maybe God doesn’t even realize he is disappointed. Maybe he isn’t being honest with himself. But I know. Which makes me feel worse so I work even harder to be worthy of His love and not let Him down. Pity party for one, please.

It was in the middle of this wrestling (excuse the mixed metaphors) when I thought about basketball.

My 12-year-old nephew lives and breathes basketball. He plays nearly every day. This weekend ushers in the basketball season for my family with a bang – four games in just over 24 hours. Have mercy.

I enjoy basketball but not multiple games over the weekend – nearly every weekend – for four months. Well, that is until my nephew was on the court. But seeing my 5’8″ handsome heart running up and down the court doing something he loves brings me an incredible amount of joy and delight. I enjoy watching Blake enjoy something that makes his heart sing because I deeply and wholeheartedly love him.

The way God loves me. 

It felt as if God leaned in, with tender hands on my shoulders and a warm breathe on my ear, and whispered that truth into my heart. The way I love you, Melissa. God’s hesed, God’s loving kindness, washed over me.

I can only imagine a parent’s love but I KNOW an aunt’s love. Not one ounce of my immeasurable love for my nephew is conditional. Not one ounce of my love for him requires payment, justification or reimbursement. And if for one second I sensed Blake feeling he had to earn or justify my love for him, I would be heart-broken.

The way God is heart-broken.

It took basketball to help me realize how much God genuinely delights in me and sincerely loves me. It was basketball that taught me that God doesn’t expect, require or need anything in exchange for his love. It was basketball that reminded me that I’m not God’s hired hand or employee. I am God’s beloved. And God enjoys seeing me enjoy his countless gifts and blessings.

The point will never be what I do for God. It will always be what God has done.

For me.

For you.

And that is the only point that matters.

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