It’s not uncommon for people at our church to talk about their “story”, a subject that I find of interest. As I look at my particular story, I see how I started slowly, but Lord willing, I hope to finish strong. I hope that reading this part of my story will help you as you strive to finish strong as well.
I recently recalled an embarrassing and humiliating event that took place in my life nearly fifty years ago. I’ll get to that shortly, but first a little background.
I am an introvert, but when I was growing up, I was painfully shy. I mean really shy. Forget about dating shy. My junior high and high school years were difficult, but probably not much more difficult than they may have been for you. Adding to those uncomfortable years was my poor relationship with my father. Fortunately, I was able to receive his forgiveness for my role in our relationship breakdown before he died in 2020.
I can still remember a comment a teacher put on my report card in junior high, “Bill lacks confidence”. No doubt that was true, and still is to some extent. I didn’t have good grades in high school, for some reason never developed solid study habits. Barely getting into our local university, I didn’t do much better.
Fortunately, I would go on to have a good career as a leader at a Fortune 50 organization, graduate from seminary, with much better grades than I had in either high school or college, and have been a leader in our church for 27 years.
Recently, our local university decided to play a basketball game in their old fieldhouse that had last hosted a game in 1988. As great as that game was – and it exceeded even my highest expectations – it uncovered an event that took place back in the spring of 1974, when my senior basketball season ended, an event that I had not thought of for many years. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The summer of 1973 was the most fun I ever had playing basketball. I had been on the sophomore basketball team but didn’t play unless the game was out of reach. As a result, I didn’t try out for the team my junior year. The summer of 1973, the summer preceding my senior year, I joined a group of other team members and the team’s coach, playing pickup games at our local junior high school. I made enough of an impression that it was not in doubt that I would make the team, and expectations were that I would probably be getting a lot of playing time. I had dreams of playing in the intercity basketball tournament at the fieldhouse I mentioned above, a place where I had seen many games played, and where my hero Doug Collins had played.
Then came the first day of practice on November 1. In a drill in which the purpose was to get a charging call on the offensive player, I was hurt. Little did I know, that would effectively end my season. While the team practiced, I got physical therapy treatments at the local university, and should have used that time to learn the plays. If I could go back and change things, I would. When I was finally healthy enough, I was too far behind, and was relegated to learning the opposing team’s plays in practice. I would only get into a game if our team was either way ahead or way behind.
As we prepared for our regional tournament game, I was told that I would not be dressing; a sophomore player (no question a better player than I) would be wearing my uniform. I was embarrassed and humiliated sitting behind the bench in street clothes. For our team photo taken later, I was given a warmup to wear (see above).
Part of my story is that I have never felt that I was good enough. Might that go back to the event that I had buried for nearly fifty years? Or it may have gone back to my poor grade point average in high school and college, or being shy and lacking confidence? Perhaps, but I don’t have to choose to let disappointments define me.
It was in an Identity in Christ class that I learned that my identity is not in a few bad experiences or in awkward shyness as a child.
Don’t let your story be impacted by just a few disappointing events. They don’t define you. Bryan Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. I love his quote, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”
As God’s child, I choose to live as His humble servant for His glory. How about you?