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.”
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.
So please…forget about that last play.