I never wanted to be the guy who lived vicariously through his kids, but suffice it to say, it happens. I was (rightfully) cut from my 7th grade basketball team (strangely enough, there wasn’t much demand for a slow white kid who couldn’t jump), so when my oldest daughter made the JV squad her freshman year of High School, I at least felt my Hoosier DNA had been mildly vindicated.
We’ve watched her blossom the last two years, not just as a player, but as a person. And the whole family has been so grateful for every unexpected opportunity:
Making the freshman team. Cheesy grin.
Those first JV minutes. Wide-eyed wonderment.
Her first points. Wow! How cool is that? She made the stat sheet!
And the thankfulness scale just kept tipping:
Dressing varsity. What an incredible opportunity!
A few varsity cleanup minutes at the end of a few games. Can you believe it? Our daughter is playing varsity high school basketball!
Making an impact on the court. Who is this girl? I’m so proud of her.
And then two weeks ago she came home with the craziest news of all:
“Um, dad. Coach said I’m starting Tuesday night,” she tried to mute her glee. “Ok, goodnight!” As she ran up the stairs, I couldn’t believe the metamorphosis we were seeing. Steady, faithful Emma, lacking in the years of playing experience many of the other girls had, was reaping the benefit of showing up, working hard, and giving it her all every time she stepped on the court. We were so grateful.
Two nights later, her mom and I pushed back tears of thankfulness as we watched her run through the tunnel formed by her teammates as the starters names were announced over the loudspeaker.
And then something strange happened inside me when I wasn’t even looking.
Two games later she was back to the bench. “Coach said this team is really tall and we need more height on the post.” She wasn’t phased in the least, but I was.
My dad gene faked it. “That’s ok, kiddo. Every player matters to the team. It’s not about starting.”
( Inside though, my flesh was singing a different story. Why? She played so solid. What did she do to get moved back to the bench? Did she not play as well as I thought she did? What happened?).
In one short moment, my instincts shredded the long list of things we had been so grateful for for so long. My overwhelming sense of gratitude had become an ugly sense of entitlement. I forgot what I used to be thankful for.
Thank God for conviction of the Holy Spirit. If my kids only realized how many of the inspiring speeches I manage to concoct for them are really just God smacking me around. Somewhere inside, I found this truth:
“Every minute you get on the basketball court is a gift. If you play starting minutes, be grateful. If you come off the bench, be grateful. If you play 20 minutes of prime time, be grateful. If you get 3 garbage minutes when the game is already decided, be grateful. The posture of your heart is what matters. We deserve nothing. We’re grateful for everything. The most important characteristic you can carry in life is a spirit of thankfulness.”
I don’t know about you, but I am quick to forget the things I used to be thankful for. Gifts subtly transform into expectations when I’m not even paying attention. And when my focus shifts from thankful to entitled, I lose so much of the beauty in this life. I become completely obviously to the things that used to breed wonder and joy, and I set a course for disaster.
This Thanksgiving, what if we took some time to remember the things we used to be thankful for and let them overwhelm us with gratitude once again?