Mine was not a family of sports enthusiasts. Oh, there were those occasions when we might go to a stock car race or the occasional bowling tournament, but none of my family participated in high school sports. In fact, my personal encounters with sports may require therapy.
Let me explain.
When I was in third grade, there was this guy who had been held back nineteen times, in fact his son just passed on to fourth grade the year before (OK, that's not true). This guy was as big as third graders come. He even had a voice reminiscent of Sylvester Stallone.
A group of us guys gathered around the basketball hoop on the playground. The basketball was thrown skyward and a few of them even hit the backboard. I was probably the smallest kid in class and I had never actually gotten the ball before - ever. In my school, the unwritten rule was that if you got the ball when it fell back to the ground then you got to shoot it.
This was a day of miracles. The ball fell my direction and for the first time in my school career, I was going to shoot a basketball - or was I.
"Give me the ball," a deep husky voice said as a shadow fell across my face. "Uh, I just wanted to throw the ball." My reply sounded vaguely like Jerry Lewis in "The Nutty Professor".
"I said, GIVE ME THE BALL," the voice replied with a thinly veiled threat behind it - no, I take that back, it was a genuine threat that promised the use of fists.
"Uh, if I could just toss it up, I'm sure you could get it right back, I just..." I stopped talking, at least I don't remember saying anything else. I woke up in the nurse's office. "The Voice" had punched me in the face, which accounted for the black eye. Then there was the fact that I was knocked out, which often happens when small heads come in contact with the hard surface of a playground.
It was that day that I determined basketball was not for me. It would be in high school that I became convinced that there was no sport that would ever hold an interest for me. It happened in Phys. Ed.
"OK, worm food, I want you to crawl on your bellies and wipe up the floor from last period," Coach called out to us freshmen (all right, I'm probably not remembering clearly on this point either). I had absolutely no interest in sports and yet Phys. Ed was mandatory, so I was out there playing prison ball. Surprisingly it was on this day that I was nearly the last guy standing. I finally thought I was getting the hang of this sports thing. Being small had its advantages; I could dodge the ball pretty easily. Balls would swish by my head and I would jump and duck, and my classmates cheered me on. I smiled as I thought, "Hey, I might be pretty good at this after all, I...". Suddenly everything went black.
When I tried to open my eyes I was in the locker room. This was more a revelation based on the sense of smell than sight (if you've ever visited an adolescent male locker room you get the picture). It seems I hadn't been paying close enough attention and someone sent that large rubber ball on a collision course with my face.
Two black eyes!
When people asked me about it, it might have been nice to have been able to say something like, "you should have seen the other guy." Instead, I had to suffer through the humiliation of laughter, due to the fact that a stupid rubber ball took out some gangly freshman.
My wife, Nancy, on the other hand comes from a family in which she and all her siblings participated in sports and all of them were pretty good at it. And because they all are younger than I, there would be many occasions for me to see basketball, volleyball and football games. I began to take notice of the skill involved in playing the game and could appreciate the fundamental training required to excel.
These days, I have favorite college and professional teams. I have even come to understand the games pretty well. You might even call me a fan. I still don't want to get out there and play. I tried it once with sand volleyball and quickly recalled that there were reasons why I didn't play. My team laughed so hard every time I hit the ball that they were ill prepared to get the ball back across the net. Some even mentioned incriminating film that could easily be sent to that "funny video" show.
God gives us gifts to use for His honor and glory. I'm trying to use the gifts He's given me to do just that. However, there are many times when we don't think the gifts He has given us are as special as someone else's. Because we think that what they are doing is more important, we try to do the same thing and fail miserably.
If, as Christians, we are all members of one body (and we are), then it stands to reason that each of us have a different job to do. And it doesn't matter if you are a hand, an eye or the left knee cap, if God has equipped you for that place in the body of Christ then you are the right person for the job.
I have learned that it's perfectly acceptable to appreciate someone who has been given a particular gift from God and allow them to shine for Him in the performance of that gift. We shouldn't try to do the same thing; we might not be equipped for it, we might not be good at it, we might wind up with spiritual black eyes.