Taking A Shot At Faith Doesn't Always Mean You Come Out Victorious

Taking A Shot At Faith Doesn't Always Mean You Come Out Victorious

It's easy to be faithful when things are easy, but the real challenge is staying faithful when it feels like God isn't there.
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Basketball changed my perspective on the concept of faith. I've been a member of Marshall Christian School’s varsity girls basketball team for several years. Our past four seasons resulted in one final four title and three state runner-up titles. My team and I learned many lessons through these past four seasons, but the 2015-2016 basketball season was most notable.

After a long bus ride, my team and I arrived at the gym where state playoffs were hosted. We immediately noticed Victory Christian, our opponent in the semifinal game. They were an undefeated team with brick walls for players. Needless to say, we were terrified. My team, the coach, and Mrs. Cody, the high school girls' Bible teacher, headed to the locker room before the game.

Mrs. Cody began to discuss a variety of stories in the Bible. The main example she focused on really grabbed my attention. In 2 Samuel 23:11-12, there was a field of lentils, or peas, where the Israelites and Philistines met. The Israelites fled, but a man named Shammah stayed behind and defended the pea patch. In the end, Shammah defeated the Philistines and gave God the glory. Mrs. Cody encouraged us to "defend our pea patch."

The game against Victory Christian was extremely stressful to play and even watch. At halftime, the score was 31-31. In the fourth quarter, the score was 54-54. Talk about intense. Suddenly, I was fouled with four seconds left on the clock, which meant I had the opportunity to shoot two free throws.

Most people would choke under that pressure, but I had faith in something bigger than myself. I tuned out the crowd and began to pray. I told God I believed I would be rewarded for my faith and that all glory would be given to Him, whether or not I made the free throws. By the grace of God, I made not one, but both free throws. The game ended with a final score of 56-54-- we beat the supposedly "unbeatable" team!

When Mrs. Cody came into the locker room after the game, everyone began to praise God. God had moved one of our mountains-- our next mountain was the state championship game, where we would face a team who had already beaten us once in the regular season.

The next day, we arrived at the gym, entered the locker room, and gave our full attention to Mrs. Cody. She talked about a girl in the Bible named Hannah. She was one of the two wives of a man named Elkanah. The other wife, Peninnah, had many children, whereas Hannah had none. Hannah was frustrated due to her inability to have children, so she began to pray.

She made a vow that if God gave her a son, she would give the son back to Him. God granted Hannah a son; Mrs. Cody encouraged us to have faith like Hannah. We came together and made a vow to God - all glory would be given to God regardless what the scoreboard read at the end of the game.

After warm-ups, the championship game began. Valley Fellowship, our opponent, wanted to win just as much as we did. At the end of the first half, we were down by ten points. We walked to the locker room with a feeling of defeat, but Mrs. Cody encouraged us to keep our faith. God hadn't given up on us, so we didn't need to give up on Him. Mrs. Cody led us in prayer, and we headed back to the gym.

Everything began to fall apart in the third quarter. Doubt crept into our minds, and Valley Fellowship used it to their advantage. The remainder of the game went downhill, ending with a final score of 47-36. Once again, we finished as the state runner-up. Disappointed is an understatement for what we felt.

The atmosphere after the game was different compared to the last state championship we lost. None of us knew what to say, so we looked to Mrs. Cody for guidance. She referred to Hebrews 11:39, which reads, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.” God's plan isn't always our plan.

God commended us for our faith, but He allowed us to experience yet another loss. After the first loss, no one gave any glory to God. We reacted with anger and bitterness because our hard work seemed pointless. T

he second loss had the same outcome, but our reactions were completely opposite of last time. The game against Victory Christian taught us to join together in faith and trust God. The state championship game against Valley Fellowship taught us to give God the glory in all circumstances and trust that He has a purpose for everything. Faith is especially necessary in the most difficult of times. It's easy to be faithful when things are easy, but the real challenge is staying faithful when it feels like God isn't there.

Although the 2015-2016 state championship didn't go as we had hoped, a greater lesson was demonstrated. Honestly, the lesson I learned was much more significant to me than a state championship. I realized basketball was temporary, God was eternal, and I was a champion in His eyes.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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Everything The Student Athlete Loses When They Move On From Sports

Enjoy it while it lasts.

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We used to call it "flipping the switch." You would go through eight hours of school (somehow) and then your mentality would automatically change. The worries and stress from the school day would dwindle as you put on your cleats and begin to warm up. Anything that was going on in your life didn't matter when you hit the dirt. You create lifelong friendships with the girls you spent every day with for months at a time. Teammates who see you susceptible after a bad game and on cloud nine after one of your bests.

You develop a routine and superstitions. Hitting your bat on the inside of your cleat before you hit, chewing a certain type of gum on the volleyball court, how many times you spin the ball before you shoot a free throw, whatever your quirk was, you 100% believed it would make you play better. You practice in your free time with your dad, devote three to five months of your school year to a team, and play all summer long with your travel team as you live off hotel breakfast. Then one day, it's all over.

It is a feeling that nobody can prepare you for. They say enjoy it while it lasts but you never really understand what you'll be walking away from when you play your last game and hang it up for good. You lose a part of yourself when you're no longer an athlete. I forgot what it feels like to be competitive and be a part of something that is bigger than myself. It has been two years since I've played my last softball game and not a day goes by when I don't miss it. I didn't play because I wanted to go pro or even to the collegiate level, but I played because it was an escape and helped me become who I am.

You begin to forget what it felt like to hit the sweet spot on a bat, what it sounded like to have an audience cheer for you as you stand alone on second base and see your family in the stands, to hear the metal spikes of your cleats on concrete when walking in the dugout. It's simple things about the game you love that brought you pure joy and an escape from the world and the thoughts in your head. Batting practice was always mine. Focusing on nothing but the next pitch and how hard I could hit it.

When you have to watch the game from the other side of the fence, you realize how much pressure you put on yourself when you played. It's just a game. Make as many memories as you can and enjoy every inning because when you leave sports behind you have to find your inner athlete in other things. Create a workout routine, joining a club sport or intramurals, or even becoming a coach. As much as I miss the sport, I am thankful for everything it brought me. It taught me how to be a good friend, respect others around me, and to push myself to discover what I was capable of.

So, enjoy it while it lasts.

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The First Time My Mistakes No Longer Controlled My Life

Mistakes suck, and though I've conquered a few, I'm still learning.

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The whistle blows as the team cheers on.

My heart pounds as if it will burst out of my chest at any given moment and I taste the salty sweat trickling down my face. I must serve over the net, I must get it in, I must ace my opponent or I will fail. Fear.

In his first inaugural speech, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously stated, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Such a statement proves powerful to the matured minds of society; however, in the minds of some adolescents, this declaration appears somewhat foolish, as numerous "threats" ignite fear, thus causing teens to grow anxious.

A major cause for fear in the rising generation takes form in failure. In the eyes of these people, making a simple mistake paves the way towards absolute failure; therefore, perfectionists constantly walk on eggshells attempting to do the impossible: avoid human error. This mentality gives way to constant stress and overall disappointment, as perfection does not apply to human beings. If one can come to the realization that not one person can attain perfection, they can choose to live life in ease, for they no longer have to apply constant pressure upon themselves to master excellence. The fear of failure will no longer encumber their existence, and they can overcome situations that initially brought great anxiety. I too once put great pressure on myself to maintain perfection, and as a result, felt constantly burdened by my mistakes. However, when I realized the inevitability of those mistakes, it opened the door for great opportunities. The first time I recognized that failure serves as a tool for growth allowed me to no longer fear my mistakes, and instead utilize them for my own personal growth.

The whistle blows as the team cheers on. My heart pounds as if it will burst out of my chest at any given moment, and I taste the salty sweat trickling down my face. I must serve over the net, I must get it in, I must ace my opponent. As hard as I try, I fail; as the ball flies straight into the net and thuds obnoxiously onto the gym floor, so does my confidence. I feel utter defeat, as I know my fate. My eyes water as my coach immediately pulls me from the game, sits me on the bench, and tells me to "get my head into the game" instead of dwindling on past errors. From then on I rarely step foot on the court, and instead, ride the bench for the remainder of the season. I feel defeated. However, life does not end, and much to my surprise, this mistake does not cause failure in every aspect of my life. Over time, I gradually realize that life does not end just because of failure. Instead, mistakes and failure pave the way toward emotional development and allows one to build character. In recognizing that simple slip-ups do not lead to utter failure, I gain perspective: one's single mistake does not cause their final downfall. Thus, this epiphany allowed for my mental growth and led me to overcome once challenging obstacles.

Instead of viewing mistakes as burdens, one should utilize them as motivation for future endeavors. The lesson proves simple: all can learn from their mistakes. However, it is a matter of choosing to learn from these mistakes that decide one's future growth. Instead of pushing faults away, I now acknowledge them in order to progress. Before coming to such a realization, I constantly "played it safe" in sports, fearing that giving my best effort would lead to greater error. I did not try, and as a result, I rarely failed.

Although such a mentality brought forth limited loss in terms of overall team success, it also brought forth limited, individual success. Today, fear of failure no longer controls life on the court. I use my mistakes as motivation to get better; instead of dwindling on an error made five minutes prior, I focus on the form needed to correct it. As a result, skills will constantly improve, instead of regress. Thus, errors serve as blessings, as it is through these errors in which one can possess the motivation to better themselves.

For some, fear acts as an ever-present force that controls every aspect of life. In particular, the fear of failure encumbers perfectionists, as the mere thought of failing causes great anxieties. In the past, I have fell victim to the fear of committing a mistake, and as a result, could not go through life without feeling an overwhelming sense of defeat. However, in a moment of what appeared to be a great failure, I finally recognized that life does not end due to one mistake, let alone one million. Instead, mistakes pave the way toward personal development and provide essential motivation to succeed in everyday life. Without mistakes, it proves difficult to grow in character. One must first learn to accept their faults before they can appreciate their best qualities. Thus, the fear of failure inhibits the growth of an individual; therefore, all must come to the realization that essentialness of mistakes, as they allow for the further development of overall character.

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