There’s No Shame In Getting Benched

Tae Kwon Do starts tonight.

For my middle kid this is the utmost in excitement. It means all the weeks of practicing ninja moves on his sister and doing practice roundhouse kicks in the grocery line are all going to pay off.

Because tonight is the night.

In chatting with him and saying how much he’s going to love it, he looks at me with certainty and says ‘Well, if I can’t do it after a couple of times, I’ll just quit.’

Yeah, no.

This was a funny statement coming from this kid. He’s the most agile child I know. He has a 6 pack. At age 7. He’s going to be fine.

Me, his participating mom, not so fine.

But it got me thinking of how we approach things, the idea that we need to be stars immediately.

This was not my sporting experience. I began playing on my Junior High basketball team when I was in grade 5. I was tall, I was determined.

And I was a bench sitter.

There were kids who weren’t as tall but they were faster, and they were as tall and they were better shots than me. So I spent time on the bench. In Junior High there is this sense of fair play where everyone gets to play, provided you’re trouncing the other team with enough margin that whatever you do doesn’t matter because you can’t lose anyway.

Fastforward to High School. With 4 years under my belt and playing with the same group of girls as Junior High, I still spent time on the bench. I didn’t go to a school where it was all about participation. Winning was important.

I wasn’t the star, but I was a hard worker. And I was a team player.

I hear stories of people, young and old, who aren’t willing to be bench sitters.

It’s not worth their time, they don’t deserve to be benched, where they played before they were the star and now you want to bench me?

I’m not saying the bench is fun. It’s not fun knowing that you’re dressed, warmed up and ready to go, and your job is to cheer and be a nice enough person that you don’t wish an injury on the player ahead of you.

But bench warming taught me something.

It taught me that it wasn’t about me.

It taught me that you stick with something because you are part of something bigger than yourself.

It taught me that the work that you put in proves something to other people, your tenacity is a sign of your character rather than your stardom.

Being in the middle of the pack showed me that when you love something more than you love your ego, you’re willing to have other people see you sitting on the bench and waiting for your turn.

I find this aversion to bench sitting happens in church. People want to be front and center, want the stage and the accolades, want to be noticed for their skill and their ability.

They want to run with the spiritual big dogs.

And when they don’t, they quit.

I’ve known people who, when they were told they couldn’t be part of the worship team because their musical ability was non-existent, just stop trying. Because they wanted what they want and didn’t want to hear no.

I’ve seen people chafe at being led because they want to be the leader, even when they aren’t ready or skilled, aren’t able to lead with the kindness and humility that is required of us by Christ.

And I’ve been someone who wanted to be in a ministry place that I wasn’t prepared for, either in maturity or knowledge. But, oh, how I wanted it.

I’ve been spiritually benched. I’ve had times when God has said to me ‘not for you, not yet’.

And it sucked. I felt ready, I wanted that experience, but I wasn’t ready.

Looking back on my times being benched, spiritually and otherwise, I realize that it was one of my greatest learning experiences.

It taught me to check my motives. Did I want to be the star and have the fans, or was I doing this to further something bigger than me? If we say no to serving others, to being part of what God is doing in church just because we’re not serving in the way we think we deserve, we are missing out on a sense of mission, community, and purpose that is so very very good for our souls. It’s good for it not to be about us.

It taught me that my skills needed to be developed. Just because you’re benched doesn’t mean you’re not practicing, and training, and learning. Some of my best learning experiences have been when I was in the background, in a supporting role.

It taught me that it’s up to the coach to determine when I’m ready. When I look at ministry opportunities I wanted so much, I realize that the no from God showed his great foresight and wisdom. I wasn’t ready, or the situation wasn’t right, but I couldn’t see it until later.

So I’ve learned not to give up when I’m on the bench. Watching, waiting, training, striving, supporting, all of these traits have developed me into a better person. It’s taught me that my view of myself needs input, I need to let God be in charge of me and what I do. I needed to learn how to be a follower before I could be a leader.

I needed the experience of the bench to get better.

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I Miss A Lot of Things

I miss writing.

Which seems strange because I’m doing it right now. But this right now is a stolen moment, a pocket of time where things seem to breathe a little better and my inspiration and will both align.

These moments seem to be few and far between these days.

It’s more than the start of a new season, a new ministry position that is creating as I go, all the kids in school, time and space are structured differently than they were before.

It’s more than these things. All of these things come into play but I think it’s a season of life where looking ahead and looking behind are done in congruence with one another.

And it’s not even a crossroads. It’s not a right or left decision. My inner life right now seems to be flooded with the who was/will be/am of me.

Do you ever feel that way? Are you ever struck with the sensation that you are almost a totally new person to yourself and at the same time, shockingly familiar?

If you say mid-life crisis, I’ll deny it every time.

I think it’s more an idea of the evaluation of self. Who is this person that is me?

At this time of re-introducing me to myself, where I’m learning new things, parenting just school age children, venturing out in new ways in ministry and refining the familiar ministries and patterns.

It’s weird.

Because I feel both not old enough and wiser than I’ve ever been. Things are rushing and poignant all at the same time.

It makes me sit on my front step early in the morning and gaze and think.

And what do I think?

I think of what I miss. I think of the college basketball me who felt light on her feet. I think of not being too spent to write. I think of court shoes and impulsive movies.

And I think of what’s now and ahead. I think of walking alongside those at the end of life. I think of being hands and feet of Christ a different way than I ever have been before. I look at my husband of 16 years and realize that we’ve been to each other for an entire adult (18 years altogether). Try that on for size.

One of the things that happens when I’m visiting on the wards is the natural inclination of people to do a life review. To look over their lives, past, present, and future, and find meaning. Meaning in how they were within themselves and to others. To find what brings them joy in the moment, birds out the window or heat in their room.

When memories and the present and a whiff of the future seem to all merge in their hearts and minds.

It’s an intentional place to be. To sit on your front step and think about how God wired you, the experiences you’ve come through, and what the future may look like.

I sat on my front step. I sat there and invited God to have a seat. And I decided that I would start asking him questions. I would ask him what he thought of me now, because he’s known me longest and best. I would ask him what he thought of the life I’m in the midst of.

And I would tell him about the things I miss. And I would ask him what that missing means in my life now. Does it mean a going back to a part of me, or does it mean that change can feel scary and uncomfortable and I long for the long ago known.

I’m committed to asking those questions. Sitting on my front step in the stillness and everyday-colder of the early morning. Because the only way I’m going to feel settled in my skin is if I see my past, present, and future through his eyes.

It’s a journey and a discovery and I don’t have all those answers yet and my inner skin still prickles with the unsettledness of it all. But that’s ok. It’s part of growing and rediscovering God and me and us doing this life together.

So I breathe, and I ask, and I discover, with him.

Nope, Not Even Close

I am not ready. 

I am take-a-sedative (herbal, but not that kind of herbal) or stress-clean-the-house kind of not ready. 

I am so not ready that I can’t even wrap my head around it, I’m so not ready. 

My daughter is ready. 

She is sooooo ready that the people around her can feel it seeping out of her pores. She is so ready that people stop her in the library and intuitively ask her if she is ready? 

And boy is she ready. She’s been ready for two years. 

As I look at my girl I see her readiness and feel my own unreadiness. 

Sure, she’s nervous about things that other people look at her in shock for even worrying about. Like will she make friends. Because she will, in abundance. 

And I’m ready for her. I’m ready for her to be ready because she is so ready. I know these things are good for her, that kindergarten will be a place of remembering playing house and water tables and the elusive crab in the class fish tank. 

But I’m not quite ready for me. Because, you see, change in her life means change in mine. A change of time-focus and leaping into situations that have snowballed me into a world of newness and wobbly legs. 

The commitment that I made to myself years ago that when change came for her I would actively seek change myself. That the time when she’s away from me and I from her would be spent in walking alongside others. That I would stretch my legs,heart, and brain back to the back-burner part of myself, not dormant, but shared in time and space with the care of young ones. 

And now it is time and she’s ready and sleeping and I’m awake and contemplating the cleaning. I may have already taken the ‘not that kind of herbal’ sedative. 

Because I know the old but don’t know the new. Like I reassure my children as they enter new classrooms and engage with new teachers, I too want to hear, ‘you’ll be fine’. (my glorious husband has offered to pray for me when he comes to bed)

God and I have chatted about this new change. Well, I have chatted and felt too spun around to be able to listen much. But I do try. 

And sometimes the listening comes in the moment while I’m talking. 

My middle child, the lightbulb spirit child, was being cuddled and prayed over when I knew that there was something more for him. I asked him if he remembered Joshua and his nerves before he went to Jericho? And then I said, ‘and God brought those walls down to crumbs’. 

“Be Strong and Courageous. Do not be afraid. The Lord God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Wherever, no matter what. 

Despite the nerves and new beginnings and insecurities of self and situation, God is there in Spirit and in Truth. 

My son nodded, but still a little sceptical. But you see, he doesn’t have the years of new beginnings I’ve had. 

Doesn’t have the years of God’s presence, going before and hemming behind. 

Hasn’t yet seen the depth of faithfulness I’ve seen. 

Hasn’t seen enough that he can look at the young ones he loves and offer them the gift of his certainty that we are always in God’s presence and palm.

But his time will come, and tomorrow’s Godly faithfulness will resonate with his soul. 

And it will resonate with mine, in present and memory.