When my daughter was 11 and in the sixth grade, we moved to Maryland from Arkansas. She was homeschooled in her 6th grade school year until we moved and then she started in a private christian school. I am very tempted to list all of the wonderful things about her and go on and on about her interests and character! However, that would belabor the actual message of this article, so let me just say simply that she is an absolute gift from heaven. She played basketball on the middle school girls team at her new school. She had to try out and make the team like everyone else. The team was made up of 6th-8th grade girls but she was the youngest, the most petite and the least experienced of the bunch. She also moved into the school one month after the season started. For the first month of her time on the team she did not get to play in the games. It was not a league where everyone got to play. It was competitive and there were very few sixth graders who got to play. After the Christmas holidays that year something changed. The coach started to put my daughter in the games periodically. She was getting experience. She was like a deer in headlights at first, slow to react and often stunned by the pace, but after a few games she was on par with the other players and her contributions to the team increased. She was scoring points, she was passing and defending well. She was happy to be a part and we, her family, were more than happy to pat her on the back and say good game. One game she even got to start and the coach said it was the best game the team had ever played!
After my daughter started getting playing time there were mixed reviews from the stands! Specifically the row of moms that sat and adoringly watched the games twice per week with perfect attendance and golf claps of undying support for their own daughters! Some clapped and encouraged everyone and some whispered and rolled their eyes. I was rather undeterred because, after all, my daughter would never know that not everyone thought she “deserved” to get any playing time. She would make it through the season unscathed by the few that weren’t super supportive of the coach’s decision to play the 6th grader. They could move away from me on the bleachers, say rude things just loud enough for me to hear, and sneer and snarl when she made a mistake. Afterall, I could handle all of that because my daughter would not be hurt by it, she wouldn’t know. I was wrong, way wrong!
After our last regular game of the season, one that my daughter had played several minutes in, and one that every player got to play in …(also one that we lost by quite a large margin), I walked down the hallway to wait outside the dressing room for my daughter.
As I was approaching, my ten year old son in tow, I heard a woman’s voice, not the voice of the male coach but of an adult woman coming from the dressing room. I thought, hmmm, they must be ready to leave, there are mom’s in the dressing room! As I got closer I realized that was not quite accurate. The voice I heard was that of another player’s mom, a seventh grader. I kept walking and the voice became clearer and I could make out what she was saying and who she was saying it to…
“You really have no business playing in the games before the 7th and 8th graders. You should have just come in and waited your turn and sat on the bench for a year. There are girls who have been here way longer and worked way harder than you and they deserve to play more than you.”
I was instantly charged to enter the locker room and defend my daughter! No, I could not see who was in there because there was a wall between us, but the door was open and I could hear clearly. I stood in the doorway for about 2 seconds to gain my composure quietly and to desperately pray that the coach would rescue my daughter from this injustice. After all, I did not want to have to strangle a mom to the ground at a Middle School basketball game in front of both of my children. I mean I have a testimony to guard! Then the silence broke and a quiet but confident young voice came through clearly,
“ Ma’am, thank you for your concern, but I think you should speak with either the coach or my mother. ”
My daughter, ladies and gentleman! What? I could have cried. Thank you for your concern? Not one person said a word for a solid minute as that mother gathered her daughter and their belongings and rushed out of the locker room passing me frozen in the doorway on the way out.
The coach dismissed the players and I waited in the hallway with the other moms who all heard every word, but none of us spoke to it…what could be said?
I won’t go into the details of the further conversations that were had between me and the other mom and the coach at later times, except to say that they were healthy and pleasing to the Father. I will say that on the way home I told my daughter that I heard the exchange and that I learned a valuable lesson from her. Also, I thanked her for not engaging with an adult.
“Mom, you told me I don’t compete with my own team and that I honor my coaches decisions and work hard. I am a child of God, not just a basketball player.”
This is the truth for the body of Christ always, but in this hour it is very important! We don’t compete with our own team.
Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.
Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Competing with one another comes out of our mouth and is exhibited in our actions when we are fueled by the characteristics of self righteousness, pride, envy, insecurity, doubt, and fear. It is selfish and counter productive to unity and love to capitalize on the faults and shortcomings of others when we are called to walk together and complement each other’s kingdom work to glorify the Father. We spur one another on, we pray and bear each other’s burdens and we hold fast to our identity as sons and daughters of the King. I believe wholeheartedly that we need a fresh understanding of unity in this hour. We all have the same spirit of God alive in us!
Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.
4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 one God and Father of all,
who is over all, in all, and living through all.
The truth is that I may have told my daughter not to compete with her own team, but she taught me what it looked like in the matter of a few seconds when her identity was challenged.
Read all of Ephesians 4 and ask the Holy Spirit to show you areas where you can improve in walking in unity with the family of God. It starts in your personal covenant with the Father and aligning your ways with His, but the outflow from there helps us to walk in unity with others in daily life.
By Ashely Nelson, IWM Board Member and Founder of Mentoring Movement