So I observed something that I have never been part of before –
One of my kids playing on a sports team that has started the season 0-16.
Last season, my two girls played on a high school basketball team that was one win away from going to the final four of the state championship. It was quite a season to remember. Full of accolades and memories.
And this season? Well, you have heard the statement before – “This is going to be a rebuilding season for us.” And rebuilding it has been. My youngest is the only varsity player from last year’s squad.
And so expectations have had to be readjusted.
I take stats for the team and it has been difficult at times to watch our girl’s team lose by…well…a lot. And my wife, who coaches this young-skilled and young-aged team, is the perfect encourager to help these girls understand that their identity as a team or as individuals is not found in their basketball skills on the court.
When a season starts, there is always great hope as the team has not lost a game.
Then the reality of the season sets in and a season of promise quickly becomes a season of hardship.
But then things changed as our girls won their first game of the season last Friday night.
1-16 suddenly felt like 16-1.
And as I sat on the bench after that victory, seeing the fans stream onto the court, and seeing the happiness and relief of the team and coaches, it soon became a living example of a key principle that really resonated with me that night.
And the principle is what hardship does to our leadership.
It increases our propensity for gratitude.
I have watched these girls for a few months now, and they have picked themselves up after each loss, gotten back to the practice gym, and my wife has continued to mold and shape them as their coach. They have stayed encouraged and upbeat and have focused on the little improvements in their game or as players.
But here is what I noticed: I noticed how hungry the girls were for just one victory, and in the hardship of playing through 16 straight losses, it was the pressure of the hardship that produced a true sense of gratitude for the team, coaches, and fans.
Trials tend to do that – they assist us in lowering our bar of expectations and remove a sense of entitlement. The “I deserve” mentality gets crafted over time to “We’d be thankful for just one victory.” In other words, the process of going through a hardship does not always have to be bad in the fruit it produces. Because after the game on Friday night, I just had a contented feeling as I saw a group of girls give everything they had and my daughter leading the way as captain by diving for loose balls and leaving a lot of skin on the court.
I was proud of these girls. Really proud.
By the reaction of the fans and team, you might as well thought we had won the conference championship. And though it was just one win, it was so much more than that in its composition.
It is our roles as leaders to help those we lead to see through the pain of the trial and find gratitude on the other side – even in the little things. It was a bit surreal as I was reflecting on my own emotions about the game. How could I feel such a feeling of contentment and gratitude after a 1-16 stretch?
It’s because of what pressure does to us if we allow God to do His sanctifying work. Hardships, when dealt with in a good spirit, and in a spirit of humility, squeeze out complaining, bitterness, and anger. In its place, God fills with thankfulness and gratitude. It is odd, but yet it feels like the right response.
Granted, I would love to be 16-1 right now, but I fear there might have been some missed character growth by this team. And a unique opportunity to sit on the sidelines and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I was not expecting that from a 16-game losing streak. But it was there. And I finally see it.
Those things we fear or reject are often the very events that God carefully uses to shape us the most…and leave us with a sense of thanksgiving. I don’t want to forget that.