Basketball Tournaments and a Perspective Shift

Ahh, springtime.  The sun is setting later, flowers are blooming, and the sound of referee whistles and tennis shoes squeaking across a gym floor have been filling the air.  March Madness, a time that fans of college basketball have been waiting for since last March, concludes tonight with the men’s national championship game of NCAA college basketball.

University of Phoenix Stadium, Phoenix-Site of 2017 Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship

My husband and I are big fans of college sports.  I grew up watching the Kentucky Wildcats play basketball and listening to my parents applaud wildly at every basket our team made.  My husband is a devoted South Carolina Gamecock fan, and has enjoyed cheering for both the Men’s and the Women’s teams in an amazing basketball season this year. The University of South Carolina women’s basketball team progressed all the way through the tournament to win the title of National Champions for the first time in the history of the University of South Carolina!

The USC men’s basketball team also made history by progressing further than ever before in tournament competition this year and experienced a disappointing loss in the Final Four game a few nights ago.

USC Basketball Coach Frank Martin

USC Basketball Coach Frank Martin wrote a touching letter to Gamecock fans at a high point of the tournament which you can read in its entirety here.  In the letter Martin listed the 3 things he and his players ask of their fans:  time, money, and passion.  Time, he said, “is the most valuable possession that any of us have.”

Time is my most valuable possession.  That truth resonated in me, and I contemplated it for a long while before I tucked it away in the same mental storage locker as “Things take time” and “spicy foods are not my friend.”

The following day after reading Coach Martin’s letter I woke up and threw my feet over the side of my bed with my to-do list already looping through my mind.  My mental checklist included family responsibilities, errands, meal planning and preparation, urgent prayer concerns, deadlines for kids’ school projects, work, and multiple volunteer roles at my church.  As I got ready for the day I began to feel stress physically spread through my body.  I had a grumble fest with myself about the mountain of work I needed to accomplish in a miniscule amount of time.

With Frank Martin’s truth freshly implanted from the previous day, another thought suddenly latched onto it in a blaze across my mind. It was from a passage in the New Testament of the Bible in which Paul is urging members of the early Church to give generously to others in need.  He writes “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Cor 9:7-8).

God loves a cheerful giver.

These were the words flashing in neon lights in my brain.  I’m familiar with this specific passage and the situational context in which it originally existed.  I know that monetary gifts are the focus.  However, in that moment I got the message loud and clear—I understood that the sudden mental delivery of this verse was not intended to address financial gifts, but my attitude relating to the gift of my time—my most valuable possession.

A flood of ideas came crashing in to my thoughts.

Instead of grumbling from my responsibilities, why not be grateful for the opportunity to serve God and His people?

Instead of feeling overwhelmed at perceived expectations, why not calmly call to mind the specific people I want to bless through my service?

Instead of measuring out how little I could offer simply to squeak by, why not consider asking God to guide me in offering my best with the time constraints in place?

All In Ministries (AIM) Women’s Conference where hundreds of women gather to be discipled to be disciple-makers

My thoughts turned to a prayer: “Father, You have placed me in these roles.  You know how you’ve made me to meet expectations.  Please help me replace my grumblings with a grateful heart and a cheerful attitude.  Please help me be a cheerful giver of my time and service in a way that pleases and glorifies You.”

Stress still exists, but these thoughts are guiding my response to it.  I’ve had a perspective shift that I want to keep.

My friend Susan and I will be traveling back to India next month to serve the women of the Indian Church through All In Ministries International.  From previous experience, I know I will be challenged and convicted by their example.  Similar to us, these women have familial responsibilities, work

Women attending an AIM International conference in India

expectations, and additional stressors as a daily part of life.  Many of the women we encounter serve tirelessly and sacrifice greatly to share God’s truth with others.  The work is difficult and sometimes full of risk, but the willing attitude of these beautiful women is a true encouragement and motivator for me.

As I mentally picture these Sisters in Christ and consider the words of a successful basketball coach, the question that I pose to myself, and to you, is this:  with what attitude will we choose to offer up our most valuable possession—our time?