The Theology of Free Throws

There was a time--long ago, and far away--when I played on my high school's basketball team.  This was back in the day when players wore really short shorts and really high tube socks.  It was magical. 

As part of my quest to be a better basketball player, I used to practice free throws religiously and got pretty good at them... when there was nothing at stake.

During a game situation, however, when there was more on the line.. it became much more difficult to make them. 

I have a distinct memory of standing at the free-throw line after being fouled at the end of a close playoff game.  It was the loneliest feeling in the world.  The goal seemed like it was a mile away. 

And everyone in the whole gymnasium was watching, waiting for me to shoot. 

The great Chinese sage Tranxu once said:
"When the archer shoots for no particular prize, he has all the skills... When he shoots for a gold prize, he goes blind... His skill has not changed, but the prize divides him." 
So much of the way we approach our lives is affected and shaped by the pressure we place on ourselves to succeed.  And sadly so much of what passes for success in our culture isn't really success at all. 

It might look like winning--but at what cost?  We kill ourselves with stress, stretch ourselves too thin, sacrifice things that are dear... and for what?  More things?  Status?  Recognition? 

Interestingly, when we give our need to succeed in the way our culture defines success, we soon realize what's most important in life.  We also realize that we can let all of the other stuff go, and simply "be." 

Jesus told his followers, "Seek first the kingdom of God and God's justice... and then let everything else work itself out." (That's my translation, by the way--but it's a good one)

Anthony de Mello puts it like this: 
Get rid of your fear of failure, your tensions about succeeding, you will be yourself.  Relaxed.  You wouldn't be driving with your brakes on.  That's what would happen. 
 If you've been living your life with the overwhelming pressure of success hanging over your head... If you have defined your worth in what you have accomplished... If you dread failure more than living... 

Maybe it's time to let go of all of it, and rest in the knowledge that God is in control, and you are not.  May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and forever.  Amen. 

By the way... I made the free throws.  It was a good moment.  


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