“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” — Galatians 5:16
While watching the 2022 Army-Navy game, an analyst made an interesting comment about about a certain player on Navy’s team. He talked about the player’s defensive ability, his talent, his heart, but he also pointed out another key element to the young man’s success: “He’s an instinctive player, but he’s also put in positions to be instinctive.”
I found this very interesting because it highlighted an important part of any person’s achievement: Their work ethic and ability must also be coupled with opportunities to exhibit and develop those things. They must be placed in positions to grow those skills so they become more and more automatic.
A disturbing trend I’ve noticed in sports for many years is how many solid players end up riding the bench most of their career because they weren’t given the chance to grow into their skills. Most teams and organizations these days have little patience for developing an athlete outside of practice, so the individual never gets those hard, big-moment opportunities to sink or swim and decide if they’ve got the goods to succeed. And I wonder just how much talent is wasted simply for lack of patience on the part of the leadership to just give the athlete a chance or two and let them grow into their ability.
The military academies at least have this one thing right: By putting their players in positions to learn on the job in real-time experiences, they grow the individual’s character and allow those leadership and athletic instincts to form.
The reality of the Christian life is that as soon as we surrender our lives to the Lord, we are put in the game — whether we realize it or not. Most of the time, we’re kind of flying by the seat of our pants, figuring out how to grow and learn as we go. But along the way, as we lean into Him for our needs, we’re also developing instincts: of love and compassion, discernment and wisdom, strength and integrity, faith and courage, helpfulness and hope. All of these are byproducts of being thrown into the hardcore part of living life and finding out how to apply those instincts where and when needed. And God knows we can’t gain these unless we are placed in situations where we must be challenged. It’s the constant grind of living for Him in a fallen world where our choices are honed and our beliefs are lived out.
So perhaps we need to start rethinking this “keep them on the sidelines” attitude. Perhaps there is no other way for our athletes — as well as our people — to develop their playing and personal instincts unless we let them. Yes, it won’t be perfect. They will make mistakes, and it may sometimes cost both them and us. But they will learn, and they will respect us and be thankful later on for our patience with them as they figured it out.
After all, such is the nature of God with us … over and over and over again. Maybe it’s time we start better reflecting that toward our kids, our players, our employees and whoever else we encounter along the way.
— Katherine Singer
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