Our family was recently given a basketball hoop by some very gracious friends. Their children are all grown and out of the house now and they didn’t want the thing in their driveway anymore (especially after the wind blew it over on one of their cars). And even though our kids are way too little to play on it now, I was absolutely thrilled to inherit it. Driveway basketball has always held a special place in my heart. I grew up with a hoop in my driveway and played on it incessantly. It was a huge part of my life. I played friends just about every weekend. In fact, some of my best friendships started over a game of driveway basketball. Also, some of the longest conversations I’ve ever had with my brother were during one-on-one games in the driveway. It’s strange, I think guys can actually have much more natural and open dialogue when they are busy doing something else like sports, instead of just sitting across from each other trying to force a conversation. Anyway, I also found myself in that driveway alone on many evenings. It was something like a refuge for me during my teenage years. Like a free therapist that helped me work through all kinds of issues and emotions. All that to say… I love driveway basketball! But it does have a pretty big drawback.
The problem with driveway basketball is that after you leave the driveway, and try to play somewhere else, everything is different. You see, my driveway (like just about all driveways) was sloped. So, when I was shooting from the left side I was shooting on a goal anywhere between 10 and 11ft high. And if I was shooting from the right, it was anywhere from 9 to 10ft high. And this caused a bit of a trajectory problem whenever I played in a gym or at the park or really anywhere that was a flat surface. Not to mention the times that I was playing against guys that played organized ball. They would start calling out plays and codes and I would be left in the dust. I didn’t even speak the right language to play with those guys. In my driveway, I was a pro. I could sink shots from just about anywhere. I was freakin’ Larry Bird in the driveway! It wasn’t until I played with some new people and in some new places that I realized just how much the distortions of my own driveway court had affected me.
I experienced a similar thing in my spiritual life when I left college. I had spent several years of my life surrounded by amazing, spiritually minded friends. I had lived with some extraordinary roommates and had grown into a deeper understanding of what Christian community actually looked like. I had been devouring book after book and growing in my understanding of theology and doctrine. And if I’m honest, I had some of the same “Larry Bird” like delusions that I had back in the driveway. Like I was some kind of professional at this stuff. Now, I would have never said it that way, but it came out in the way that I judged others, particularly churches and church leaders. It wasn’t until Erin and I moved to Charlottesville to help plant a church with some close friends that I started to realize that I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did and I wasn’t nearly as proficient at the Christian life as I thought I was. It took a lot of failure, confusion and heartache for me to come to terms with this.
It turns out that my spiritual growth and maturity was a lot like my basketball journey. It wasn’t until I experienced life with some new people and in some new places that I realized just how much the distortions of my own environment had affected me.
Since then I have experienced what it means to know and love Christ and His church in several different environments and in several different roles. And I am deeply aware, more than ever before, that I am not a professional at this life at all. In fact, the more I learn about God, the more inept I actually feel as one of Hs ambassadors in the world. But in a beautiful way, the more I realize my own frailty, the more I am freed up to benefit from and live out of the grace that is offered to me through Christ.