The year, 1973 and we are headed into the spring game. It was my freshman year in college and I had had a good season. Didn't start, but got some playing time. I was elected one of two freshman team captains. Everything was rocking right along, one step closer to my dream, the NFL (told you I was big dreamer) when I got called into Coach Mayo's office, our offensive coordinator and receivers coach.
"Slick (never knew why he nicknamed me slick, guess it was easier to scream), we have made some changes going into our spring game that we feel are going to help us next year." My heart was pounding, my palms sweating as I waited for the impending bad news. I was expecting the worst. Something like, "We've moved you from left end to right end (of the bench). I didn't want any news. I was perfectly happy the way things were. Number two on the tight end depth chart and Jimmy, the starting tight end, had only one year left. Well, Coach Mayo continued, "We are moving Jimmy to linebacker and moving you into the number one spot at tight end. Think you can handle it."
Starting tight end heading into the spring game my freshman year. Dream right on track. As the game got closer, I got more and more nervous. Don't ever remember being too nervous in high school, but this was a different ball game. A starting position and an NFL career was on the line (or at least that is how I felt). The big moment came, when in the huddle, he called my number. This was a play I had scored my first college touchdown on. I was feeling confident. Wish I could tell you I caught the ball and scampered 40 yards for a TD. I could tell you that but it would be a lie. No, I misread the defense and turned the wrong way. The ball hit me in the side of the helmet. I panicked the rest of the game making multiple mistakes, missed catches, I simply fell apart, to the point, that Coach Mayo screamed, "Slick, on the bench and don't ever come off until I tell you to." I had blown my big opportunity! This is embarrassing, but I sat on the bench and began to cry. After a bit, Coach Mayo approached me, "Slick, why are you crying?'' My response, "Coach, you've yelled 3 times more at me that you've yelled at the rest of the team." He chuckled (I didn't think it was funny) and I will never forget what he said, "Slick, there are guys on this team I never yell at because I've given up on them. As long as I'm yelling at you, you're in good shape. That's my way of trying to get the best out of you." He didn't give up on me because he sure kept yelling at me.
The Bible teaches us that God disciplines those He loves. Sometimes I get that same feeling with God that I got with Coach that day. I feel as though He is being to harsh with me. He is allowing bad things continue to happen to me when He could change things and make life much easier.
I continue to ask questions like, "Is this punishment for past sins?" Finding it more and more difficult to make sense of the continued tough times. Could it be that God is more interested in my character than He is in my circumstances. Wouldn't I be far better off is my character change rather than my circumstances? Is He punishing me or is He pulling me and preparing me? Does He intend to hurt me or is He honing me? Is He clubbing me or is He curring me? Is He spanking me or is He sparking me? Is He bulling me or is He building me? Is He condemning me or is He calling me? As long as I feel the tension between where I am and where I should or could be, then I feel Him at work. As long as I have as big of a desire for my character to change as I do for my circumstances to change, then I know He has placed me back on the potter's wheel.
I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit continues to poke and prod at my heart. The feeling that He is committed to making me better. He allows the hard times, as a discipline, to pull me up not to push me down. He loves me in the valley just as much as He loves me on the mountain top. Even though times are tough, I am secure in His love.
How about you? Have you failed to see how committed He is to you in the difficult times? Has it caused you to run from Him instead of toward Him? It is in those hardest times that you can know that He truly loves you. Submit to His discipline. It will not destroy you, but draw you into His presence, where you can abide in His love. Welcome everyday, good or bad, as a part of an incredible journey with a God that is passionately in love with you. JOIN THE JOURNEY!