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I recently coached a 7-8-year-old basketball team at our church. After watching them for the first two practices and the first game, I came to the realization that before I could try to teach these children anything about basketball, we first needed to work on some self-awareness exercises.
Now by “self-awareness exercises” I’m not talking about some mystical, New Age meditations or chants done while in the lotus position. I simply mean the general concepts of knowing what color shirts our team was wearing, that there were other things in the gym beside themselves, and, even more basically – not running into stuff.
So we started with basic ideas like “this is a gym,” “that is the basket” and “these are your teammates.”
I figured that until they came to understand how their bodies fit into the larger space of the universe, and specifically the 40x70-foot rectangle we were using as a basketball court, teaching them the finer points of man-to-man defense or how to shoot a layup was an exercise in futility.
This idea of knowing where and how and why we fit into the universe is not only important for first- and second-graders, but it is essential for those of us who are a little older as well.
Many people are eager to make their mark in this world, but struggle to see exactly where they fit in to the larger picture. Some even wonder whether or not there is a larger picture. Some people never come to appreciate their own uniqueness, while others overestimate their importance in the overall scheme of things.
Consider the story of the mechanic who was removing a cylinder-head from the engine of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle when he spotted a well known cardiologist in his shop. The cardiologist was there waiting for the service manager to take a look at his bike when the mechanic shouted across the garage, "Hey, Doc, come and take a look at this!"
A bit surprised, the cardiologist walked over to where the mechanic was working on the motorcycle. The mechanic straightened up, wiped his hands on a rag and began, "Doc, look at this engine. I open its heart, take the valves out, repair any damage and then put them back in. When I'm finished, it works just like new. So how come I make $40,000 a year, and you get the really big bucks when you and I are doing basically the same work?"
The cardiologist paused, then smiled and leaned over and whispered to the mechanic, ''Try doing it with the engine running."
Now for me, I would be just about as able to do open heart surgery as I would to overhaul an engine successfully. Still, perspective is a wonderful thing.
Often, if I am not careful, I have the tendency to overestimate my role. I tend to act as if everything is about me—that life is a movie, and I am the star, and everyone else is just a bit player in the larger story of my life.
When I think this way, it becomes easy (and even logical) to think that the most important thing in life is to make my mark, to increase my position, to enhance my fame, and to further my story.
The only problem is that the movie isn’t about me.
It has been said that there are two fundamental truths in the universe: No. 1, there is a God; and, No. 2, you’re not Him. And neither am I.
Well-known speaker, pastor and author Andy Stanley said, “Living to make my mark is too small a thing to give my life to.”
In other words, living as if the world revolves around me and my story will cause me to miss out on the opportunity to make a mark that will truly last and might actually change the world.
It is coming to the realization that we have been invited into a much larger, more significant story – God’s story – and that He wants to make His mark through us. That is an incredible invitation, and it is a calling worthy to be our life’s focus.
I leave you with the same wisdom I shared with my young basketball team: Know whose team you’re on and know that there are other things in the universe besides you.
And try not to run into stuff.
Chuck Souder is on staff at Shelby Christian Church. He can be reached at email@example.com.