NCAA March Madness.
Ever since I was a little kid, my family has eagerly awaited the tip-off of 3 weeks of almost 24/7 college basketball. There's something about the "one and done" atmosphere, the Cinderella stories, the inspiration, the extreme athleticism, the "One Shining Moment" video when the championship is all over. I am basically guaranteed to cry at least once and to yell at the TV screen a lot more times than that throughout the tournament.
I don't know if you follow basketball like I do, but one of the coolest moments from the tournament so far (in my opinion) has been Georgia State's upset of Baylor in the first round. As sad as I was that the Bears lost (Abby's alma mater), Georgia State has a really cool coach, and, come on, who doesn't love the underdog to some extent?
Ron Hunter, the coach, actually tore his Achilles' Tendon celebrating the week before in his team's conference championship...which they won. His son R.J. is one of Georgia State's best players and made the shot that propelled the Panthers to upset Baylor. Coach a.k.a. Dad fell off his stool when the shot went in! This is not a coach lacking in enthusiasm. I've been reading Emerson lately (#thingsEnglishgradstudentssay), and I love this quote from "Circles": "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. The way of life is wonderful; it is by abandonment."
It was awesome to watch this coach in victory, but I think he really stands out in the way he treats his team, himself, and the entire March Madness experience in defeat. Georgia State lost their second round game to Xavier, but check out this little bit from his post-game interview: "I told them not to be sad, what a great week, what an unbelievable week, there's nothing to be sad about...As a coach, best time of my life, and as a father...I love this kid, man."
I played basketball in high school. I definitely never felt this way after losing, especially immediately after a season-ending loss. But Coach Hunter made me consider something that extends far beyond a basketball court: how do I act in defeat?
I'm talking about defeat in life, when it feels like everything is going wrong, like nothing and no one is on your side. That's tough. And that's real life, it's not a game. Sometimes "winning" might not even be one of the options. How do you act in these situations?
Honesty hour: I've felt pretty defeated this semester. I've felt like I bit off way more than I could chew. I've felt like everything I'm doing is less than my best. I've felt inadequate at school and in ministry. I've felt like a bad teacher, friend, and follower of Jesus. And I've acted like it. My enthusiasm and energy for things I love has plummeted. And I've tried to go it alone. I've tried to figure it out by myself. I haven't always been pleasant to be around - ask my roommates, bless their souls!
Saturday, I read Psalm 63, seemingly on a whim. This is what it says:
"O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you...My soul clings to you..."David, in this Psalm, is the picture of the way I want to be in defeat. I want to seek God, I want to thirst for His Spirit, I want to look up and praise Him in the desert land instead of moping around like Eeyore or snapping like Oscar the Grouch. In the midst of defeat, I want to be learning and growing and moving forward. I don't want to be a sore loser.
Winning, so often, is a team effort. I think I "bench" Jesus an awful lot of the time. And because He's a gentleman, He doesn't check Himself in. But He is always ready, and He's the best player I've got - WAY better than me. He's also a great teammate - you know, the one that sticks by you in defeat and celebrates with you in victory. Because Jesus knows that we feel defeat most poignantly when we're lonely.
Let's look back at Coach Hunter's statement - look how he finishes that comment. He talks about loving his son. March Madness was "unbelievable" for him because he loves his team, and he loves his son. Maybe I can take a lesson from that, too. Even when I'm struggling, I can set love before me. Even when I'm struggling, I can set joy before me.
And as my soul clings to Jesus, I can learn to be gracious, loving, and enthusiastic.
Even in defeat.
Peace and blessings, y'all!