by Michael Kelley
As I’m writing this, I’m just a few hours away from when I will lace up my tennis shoes and play a 5 on 5, full court basketball game.
To be clear: I didn’t even make the junior high basketball team. I run a 40 yard dash in the neighborhood of 7 seconds flat, and my vertical leap is enough to touch almost every door frame in my house.
Furthermore, I am not this team’s first choice of players. I am, in fact, a last resort – a body to run up and down the court so they don’t have to forfeit.
This is not self-deprecation – these are the facts of my basketball playing ability. And that’s perfectly fine. It might even be a good thing. Perhaps I’m just trying to make myself feel better, but at least today I believe that there are valid, spiritual reasons for actively choosing to participate in activities that you’re not good at.
This is a hard thing for us especially as we grow older for obvious reasons. We don’t like to look foolish. And we know at this point in our lives where we usually succeed and where we fail. And typically it’s less fun to fail. So why do this?
I can think of at least three reasons why I, and maybe you, ought to do something every once in a while that probably won’t go well:
1. To stop taking yourself so seriously.
If we’re honest about it, we would have to admit that we are pretty ridiculous creatures. We are frail, fragile, and broken in body as well as spirit. And yet we have an incredible capacity for over self-estimation. We can very quickly start taking ourselves very, very seriously, and that can affect us in negative ways spiritually.
When we take ourselves too seriously, we can begin to think that the future of civilization, or the future of redemptive history, rests on what we do or not do. While we might laud ourselves for our responsibility, we are assuming a God-like role for ourselves and are drifting into a subtle form of self-lordship.
One active way we can remind ourselves of our comparative insignificance is to do something we’re probably going to be bad at.
2. To strip yourself of pride.
Similarly, doing something we know we won’t dominate also strips us of our pride. If we only ever do things we are good at, we are failing to have a sober estimation of ourselves. What’s more, that pride leads us to think less of others because they might not be gifted or talented in the same way that we are.
Because pride lies deeply, sometimes dormant, in every human heart, why not take an active measure against it? Why not do something you’re bad at just to remind yourself that you’re not the most awesome of the awesomest at everything?
3. To live in the freedom of the gospel.
And finally, let’s do some things we’re not good at because we are free to do so. We have already received the full and unconditional love of God in Christ. We are His adopted children, and our self-worth is no longer measured by our performance on the proverbial basketball court.
Perhaps we would even do well to look at it the other way – does our unwillingness to try something new or do something we’re not good at show that the reality of our acceptance in Christ has not sunken into our souls as deeply as we think? Maybe so.
But because we are free in Christ, we can do these things – not to prove how great we are, but because they might actually be fun even if we’re not too good at them. And at the end of the night, after we’ve dribbled off our feet and airballed several 3-point attempts, we can laugh and smile because our value as God’s children have not changed a single iota.