He’s only 14, but he’s tall and he’s strong. And he loves basketball. Yet, a broken arm, a sprained ankle, and shaky hamstrings have slowed his progress. So, we’re not doing competitive basketball this year. The expense. The time. It just wasn’t a good choice. But only ten days ago his doctor cleared him for sports and today he’s in an old leaky gym with a bunch of thirteen and fourteen-year-old crew-cut headed boys playing basketball. The game has been called off. There is too much water on the floor, too much risk from the rain that’s dripping steadily inside. So, the boys just play. Both teams decide to turn their cancelled match into a half-court scrimmage. They slowly get their rhythm. My son drives to the basket and goes up for a shot. He soars, glides easily close to the rim, and the ball goes in. A few more lay-ups and a father near me asks, “Can he dunk it?”
“I’m not sure. You could ask him.” I respond.
And the next time my son is near us I hear the father call out to him, “Can you dunk it?”
My fourteen-year-old looks back over his shoulder as he heads up the court and shakes his head, “No.”
A few more trips back and forth across the court and as my man-child goes up for another lay-up a different voice from across the gym calls out, “Dunk it!” The ball goes up and and in with fingertips almost brushing the rim. Still no dunk. But the boys – all of them – are having fun. Each one seems to have something he’s working on – a dunk, a special shot, a game-winning play, a cool move. There is conversation and curiosity among the players and the parents.
When the scrimmage ends a father near the exit catches my son’s attention as he’s leaving, shakes his hand and with a radiant smile offers these words, “This has been great. I have loved watching you play.”
We head home and I’m profoundly aware that this drive home is different than so many drives of the last year and a half. He is content, not riddled with frustration about his performance. He is happy. Peaceful. He even comments about the nice people at the gym – most of them strangers only ten days ago. And I find myself remembering the words of encouragement offered by a wise mentor last fall. Words offered when I was expressing my own angst about this child, when I was seeking advice about what I should do now to move him along. “Maybe you should wait and see what God will do,” she said.
I laughed at her words. Not because I thought they were ridiculous, but because I knew they were true. God does have a plan for him. How could I have forgotten this eternal truth?! The Lord gently reoriented me in those words that day. And now I find great reassurance in this moment of contentment. Yes, God is very much at work in this young man’s life and even in mine.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.