Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity. EPHESIANS 5:15-16
When I look back at all the opportunities I have had I notice a couple of things that stand out. First, I notice that in order to fully take advantage of an opportunity you have to wait for God’s timing. Often times we are in such a hurry for the opportunity that we ruin any chance of actually making the most of the opportunity. As I look back over the numerous basketball opportunities I had I do not believe any of them came immediately. For example, when I was an 8th grader I had the opportunity to start on my Varsity High School Basketball team, but not without having to be patient and wait for the opportunity; and my opportunity only came from my high school coach's frustration with a group of seniors...
In was January of 1996 and I had been playing a combination of Freshman and JV during the first two months of the season. For some reason this particular night I only played 3 quarters of JV and in Minnesota you are allowed to play 5 quarters per/night. So, this night I had two quarters left to play but certainly never thought I was going to receive a chance to go into the Varsity game. As the Varsity game tipped off I assumed my seat at the end of the bench close to the water bottles so when the guys came out I could quickly provide them something to drink.
However, this night was different. We entered the locker room at halftime down 42-15. My high school coach was a high spirited individual and was not very pleased as we entered the locker room. Matter of fact I believe his foot print still remains in the side of the home team’s red lockers. He was so mad that through his spitting and stinky coffee breath he told the seniors he was going to start the 8th grader in the second half. After I nearly threw up I knew this was the opportunity I was waiting for and would never look back. We ended up losing the game 72-70 at the buzzer and I finished with 17 points. That night was the last night I played JV and from that point on I started every game for the next four and half years. The opportunity only came with patience. It is important to understand it was not a content patience while sitting at the end of the varsity bench, but instead a patience that told me my opportunity would come and the only question that remained was: Would I be ready for it when it arrived?
Many times we miss opportunities because we lack patience. The lack of patience does not cost us the opportunity, but instead it causes us to miss the opportunity because in the midst of our frustration and second guessing the opportunity appeared and disappeared without it ever being noticed.
The second thing I noticed was that many times opportunities come when we least expect it. They come often in a blink of an eye and usually present themselves at the most difficult times when we have convinced ourselves that nothing good could come out of the situation we have been placed in. I think back to early November when I learned that the Attack facility in Ames was going to be sold. As I walked around for a week or two or maybe even three pouting and being upset about the situation I nearly missed an opportunity that would certainly change the course of my life as well as the direction of the Attack program.
One Thursday morning in early November I arrived at my men’s group at Cornerstone Church and was relaying my frustrations to the other men who hold me accountable each week. They listened and provided encouragement as they had done the past few weeks. However, this day was different and God was going to make sure I did not miss this new opportunity. As we started to go through the materials that morning the first verses we came across were the following from ISAIAH 46:
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say: My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.
From the east I summon a bird of prey;
from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that will I bring about;
what I have planned, that will I do.
As we concluded that mornings group meeting it was as if God was speaking directly to me to quit looking at all the negative things that were happening, and instead look at the new opportunity that had been created. As I left that morning the sun was just beginning to rise and I thought to myself how many times in my life I have missed an opportunity to do something that only God could have set forth because I was pouting about the situation I found myself in. I made a promise that morning that I would not miss another opportunity because I had my eyes closed and was not willing to see it.
Why all of the discussion this week about opportunities? It is because each high school boy & girl will embark on a month full of opportunities. This month will be the beginning of opportunities to pursue basketball at the collegiate level as we will be attending tournaments with over 350 college coaches in attendance. As Monday, July 6th, 2009 @ 8:00am quickly approaches I want to leave all of you with these couple of thoughts:
A. It is a long month and there will be some ups and some downs. For some of you your July may not begin as you want it. I want to encourage you to stay ready for your opportunity. For others you may not play as you expected, but I want to encourage you not to get too high or too low just stay ready for the next opportunity. All of your hard work over the years will be worth it as long as you stay ready for each opportunity you are given.
B. Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:7-12) Please remember that all of you have individual opportunities this upcoming month but nothing is going to be accomplished alone. If each of you plan on making the most of your opportunities then you are going to have to be willing to sacrifice for your teammates and do whatever it takes for your team to be successful. The players that get the most exposure are the players that play on the most SUCCESSFUL teams.
C. Some of you are going to leave the month feeling as though you have accomplished everything you could have ever dreamed about and more. For others of you July 31st is going to come and there will continue to be an aroma of uncertainty in the air. It is important to remember like it was for me in early November that sometimes we do not understand why some doors are closed, but often times it is just because God is preparing to open a new door that we could have never received the key for if the first door would not have swung shut.
D. HAVE FUN! This month will be one of those months that when it is over you will look back upon it and say those were some of the best times of my life. As I think back on last year’s 17U boys’ team who have all committed to play college basketball somewhere not one of them will remember who won or lost which game 10 years from now. However, I am confident they will never forget lining up as a team embraced hand in hand and running into the Atlantic Ocean as fast as they could while visiting Daytona Beach. As I sat and watched them I finally understood why they were so successful. It had nothing to do with talent, size, or athletic ability (even though these were nice traits to have) but instead it was because this experience, this moment, this opportunity was about enjoying it together. There will be a lot of pressure and there may even be a few sleepless nights as you wonder what are those coaches are thinking. Through all of this enjoy the month and enjoy the relationships you have made....especially you 17U boys and girls since this is the last month you will put on that summer basketball jersey.
Good Luck to all the high school boys and girls and MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR OPPORTUNITY!!