forget about that last play

I am a basketball player at heart. I’ve played ball since I was a child and continued through high school. It was my first love and I have fond memories of playing still to this day. When I’m on the court, you hear strictly “swish.”

 bball

Skill, knowledge of the game, and athleticism all play a major role in basketball success—but I think the key aspect separating good players from great players is mental maturity. Mental maturity, to me, in any sport, is the ability to continue to play the game after you’ve committed a bad play. You must have the mentality to hustle back on defense after you’ve thrown the ball away. And your level of mental maturity can keep you on the court or land you on the bench.

One of my favorite movies, for obvious reason, is Love and Basketball. In one pivotal scene, Monica, the lead character, was battling for a starting position on her college team. Toward the end of a tight game, she threw the ball away with mere seconds left on the clock, which could have cost her team the victory. Instead, she hustled back on defense and ultimately won the game. Rather than succumb to her mistake, which was a huge one, she continued to play, and because of that she secured the starting position. Just as with sports, we need to have the mental maturity in our Christian walk to forget about our past sins. We must still forge forward knowing we have a less-than-perfect record.

Any failure I experienced as a star athlete usually stemmed from three things: lack of initiative, lack of confidence, and anger. (Yes, in addition to natural basketball talent and athleticism, I had a bad attitude.) Plagued with this mentality, I was prone to make a mistake on the court, which would saddle me with guilt. Remaining stuck on that last play, I would simply check out of the game mentally.

My spiritual life has been filled with the same pitfalls, which can have me benched here and there. When I’m not committed to studying, praying, or meditating on God’s word, I become spiritually bankrupt—which leads to sin—which leads to guilt. I get stuck in the snare of my past sins, making them bigger than God. I get stuck having lost confidence in God’s sovereignty. Then being angry, mostly with myself for the mess I have made, I get stuck there on that last play where I threw the ball away. And as I wallow in my self-pity, the other team scores, and I am rightly sidelined and left to watch the game from the bench.

But in order to win I must bounce back, realizing what Christ did on the cross for me, understanding that His promises are true, realizing that I have ALREADY been forgiven once I truly repent and turn away from that sin. No good coach in the world would punish a player that has the mental capability to bounce back from a mistake and learn how not to continue to make the same mistake again. So there is no reason to believe God would punish us for making a mistake in life, provided we learn from it, forget about it, and bounce back. Otherwise, we remain stagnant.

past sin

So please…forget about that last play.

new year cleaning

The New Year is a popular time for ritual or tradition – one of which is new year cleaning. I don’t know if there is an “official” name for this, but many people find it necessary to give their home a good cleaning prior to the new year’s arrival believing that this will determine the condition of the home throughout the upcoming year. Although I do not hold that particular belief as Gospel, I did get the chance to do some deep cleaning during my holiday break from work. As I labored to purge the refrigerator, God brought the spiritual implications of deep cleaning to my attention, and, needless to say, my heart was pricked. The experience inspired me to focus this blog post not so much on the tradition of new year cleaning, but the analogy of cleaning out the refrigerator to the necessary deep cleaning of our hearts.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you go out grocery shopping, return home to put the groceries away, and find there is little to no room to put the perishable items (which is alarming because we go grocery shopping to replenish our food)! That is usually about when I realize it is time to clean out the fridge. If you’ve had this experience, then you know how strenuous a task it is. The tedious part is first removing all of the old refrigerated items before we can even begin to actually “clean.” This can be a daunting task but it must be done in order to first see what we have lurking in the cracks and crevices, then scrub the inside. This type of cleaning is called “deep cleaning” because it focuses on more than the cosmetic aspect; it takes some time plus serious elbow grease.

During this deep cleaning, the Psalm “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right sprit within me” (Psalm 51:10) came to mind. I pondered deeply on the spiritual implications of the task at hand. I looked at the empty belly of the fridge, door ajar, scouring pad in my right hand, cleaning solution in my left, and realized: God works on us from the inside out. We will never truly change unless we have a change of heart. The way it happens is as simple and similar as with the refrigerator – it is not going to clean itself, rather it is dependent on someone taking the time to remove all the “stuff” and scrub it from the inside out. Putting things back happens afterward, but then carefully to only include the items that are good.

David knew that it’s the inward part of man that matters, the heart. He wrote in Psalm 51:6-7 “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” When going through a change of the heart, we must allow God to throw away the rotten to allow space for the good. But how can we do this unless we allow God to clean us out? We must submit to God and allow him to show us the deep, dark, hidden truth of what is in our hearts in order to rid ourselves of it.

I understand that this is not an easy proposition; opening yourself up and letting God work on your heart. There may be things residing inside of you that you had no idea were there but are truly stifling your walk with God. Maybe an old grudge or anger from losing a loved one. These types of things have a devastating effect on your daily life. Once you see it, you have to allow God to throw it away or it will only come to rot. Yes, it may hurt to let things go that you may have held so close to your heart for a long time but there is such freedom in the yielding. You will experience “the joy of salvation,” as David put it. Bear in mind that your future is dependent upon your now, so don’t allow the junk of this life to dictate your tomorrow. Allow God to give you a good deep cleaning.

What’s in your fridge?fridge