It used to be in high school I had a dream to play in the NBA, and I worked hard to make that happen. I practiced all the time, dribbling out the passenger window of a moving car, dribbling my basketball to football practice, forcing myself to shoot free throws in drenching rain and blanketing snow–on some nights I practiced so late that the ball became covered in snow and ice, and I could no longer feel my fingers.
Those behaviors are the kinds that might make a dream like the NBA possible, and anyone who aspires to such an end might replicate those, or exceed them. There’s nothing wrong with having passion. But I made basketball the most important thing in my life, above God and family. My life teetered out of balance, and although I knew I was headed down a destructive path, I lacked the courage to choose something better. But God pursued me.
When I injured my knee my junior year in football, He used that time to heal me both physically and spiritually. He led me to His Word, which for the first time I read regularly. For some, playing in the NBA is a worthy endeavor, something he can glorify God by doing. But for me, by letting go of it, I learned that God loves me and has a better dream in mind.
I believe that people are searching for healing—from abandonment and abuse, from divorce, from injuries, from bondage and fear, from bullying and intimidation and disrespect, despair and insignificance, from hatred, angst and death, from all the terrors of war. I believe that people are craving to discover real love. That we find it, and the freedom it gives, is my dream.
It’s possible; I know it is. Just as I was fought for by God even when I was pursuing a wrong thing, we are being fought for in the same way. God loves us. He’s pursuing us with all His heart—with His heavenly host, with His Word and the unbounded, everlasting, unchanging, joyous, freedom-blessing love of Jesus Christ. And He will not quit until He has gathered all His children into His arms.
I can’t quit. I can’t. Even when my dream seems impossible, even when hoping for it is painful.
We live in a great country. We have freedoms in America unparalleled in history. We can assemble peacefully, question the government, and vote. We have prosperity; we can drive to a supermarket and buy whatever food we crave. As long as we don’t hurt someone else, we can do pretty much whatever we want.
But it feels like the heart of our country is rupturing, that our nuclear family is shattering. Increasingly, our children are entering into a hostile world. Their need for love is being compromised. With violence in schools, as in Marysville, Washington, and with our cities and towns soaring in drug use, with illiteracy and hunger and homelessness, with more and more people living below the poverty line, with divorce and abuse rampant, it is grueling to believe that our country will last long enough to return, wholeheartedly, to God.
But I can’t quit on my dream.
When I was playing basketball in high school, I played in a gym rarely attended by more than a few hundred spectators. But in this new dream I have, I’ve found myself inside an arena so vast its dimensions are unfathomable. Among countless spectators, I’ve found myself in a battle testing me in every dimension I possess—through every facet of my character, in every facet of thought, in every action, from my innermost soul to the tips of my fleshly body. Whether I use my courage, or fall back into cowardice, determines not only whether I win the moment, but on an epic level, it determines how my life is impacted eternally. I am purged and flensed, bruised and scarred, failing to keep hoping. I suffer angst and crushing fear. I’m so afraid of facing my struggles that at every moment I am tempted to quit.
But I can’t.
And my encouragement to anyone reading this is that if our dreams are good, then don’t quit. Though it’s painful, keep going.
The motivation to keep going has nothing to do with me, but God’s pursuit of me. If I am still in an arena, then God is my Coach. And if He is my Coach, how do I behave on His team?
I remember that He forgives. That He knows all my strengths, the areas where I need to spend extra time developing. He knows exactly how to push me. And He’s promised never to push me beyond what I can’t endure. And if I drop the ball, as I so often do, what does my Coach ask of me? A humbly whispered, “Sorry, Coach.” And then I’m back in the game.
Why can’t I quit on my dream? Because my Coach won’t let me give up—not on myself, not on others, not on Him—until I finish the race. His death and resurrection, His life, His victory on the cross gives me the freedom to keep hoping. It doesn’t seem possible that I can keep going, or that our beautiful America will return to serving Him alone.
But as an athlete conditioned daily in the season of the impossible, I have to bow my knee to Jesus and let Him do His mighty work, believing that with Him, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). So I’ll keep fighting to believe that America will return to Jesus, that it can find healing from its wounds, that our children can grow up in safety, and that our families will be restored. Very soon He will bring us all to Him. It’s what He fought for in the arena. It’s why He died. Even in His death, and now in His resurrection, Jesus refuses to let me go. So I can’t quit: He won’t quit on me.
“…being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 1:6