My son dreams of being an NBA player. Key word: dreams! It’s just not going to happen, but he is a kid and kids dream big. So a couple weeks ago we were watching him play in a close game between two fairly matched teams. And he took every opportunity possible to mimic or at least attempt the plays and actions of the NBA stars he looks up to.
He succeeded at stealing the ball out from under an opposing player preventing the other team from taking a rebound shot. But what happened next is where it all went wrong…
He got so caught up in the excitement of grabbing the ball that he forgot he was under their goal and shot the ball up before he realized his mistake. My heart skipped a beat and it felt like slow motion. Thankfully the ball bounced off the rim without making it in.
What a relief! No basket, no points, all O.K.
Only it wasn’t.
The five boys subbed out and another group of their teammates went in. My son is now on the other side of the gym from where I am in the bleachers. He is standing against the wall with his faced turned so he is not looking at anyone. It looks like he wants to hide. I can tell he is red. And even from across the way, I can see he is about to cry.
I want to run over there, scoop him up and tell him it is O.K. Let him know it’s no big deal. That everybody makes mistakes.
My husband, who is much more reasonable then me in situations like this, tells me to sit still; me running over there would only make it worse. I know he is right, but mommas hurt when their kids hurt!
Finally, the game was over and I could hug my son. We meet mid-court and he burst in to tears. He had been holding it back for the entire half. Now he is safe in my arms and he unloads.
I try to comfort him, but at that moment he was 100% ruled by what everybody must be thinking about him. He thought everyone had laughed at him (which no one had) and he thought everyone now thought he was a bad player (which no one did).
A classic case of fear of man… being consumed with what others think about you. Looking to their approval and acceptance for your identity. Finding your worth based on their opinion of you.
Whether we like to admit it or not, in various ways and degrees we all struggle with this. We all want to be liked, accepted, successful, popular and included and we do lots of things to try to secure whatever it is we seek. The list could go on and on, but the point is when these things rule us, it becomes our functional or false god, an idol.
An idol is anything that replaces God on the throne of our hearts. At my son’s basketball game, he was ruled by the perceived opinions of others. It caused him to stop trusting God for his identity and worth, instead spiraling downward in to a self-focused mess.
It happens that quickly… we say we love and worship God alone and would never have a false god, but in an instant our heart turns to something else. Understanding idolatry and seeking to pinpoint what goes on in our hearts enables us to see how deep our need for a Savior really is.
This is the reality I want my son to live in. This is the reality we all need to live in. From that standpoint the basketball incident was a blessing; a teaching moment we can continually go back to in helping him see his need for Jesus.
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