Well, my bracket wound up more busted than a boxer’s nose again this year. I guess it’s the price I pay for not following NCAA basketball closely enough and using a quarter to help me decide which teams I should pick. But I’m a big enough sports fan that I can always find a reason to watch a sporting event and with this blog inviting me to dig into the stories beyond the field (or in this case the court), it is easy to find points of interest to allow myself to be drawn in. So hopefully you enjoyed all the madness. Here are a couple of stories that I want to share with you from the teams in the championship game.
First, Gonzaga Bulldogs – a fitting story to kick off Autism Awareness Month
Tonight, as I was checking out facebook, this article from CRU.org came across my feed. It is the story of director of basketball operations John Jakus. He and his wife answered a call to start a basketball ministry in Macedonia. There they would use basketball to share the message of Christ with the people of Macedonia. They sold their home, packed their things and moved across the world to see this dream of theirs come to be.
And then came the news that their son had Autism.
They decided that it was best for them to return to the U.S.A. and seek help for him. The help he needed was more than they first expected. But have you ever noticed that even when things don’t seem to be going the way we want them to, God has a way of putting pieces that fit together. From the article “The last event John coordinated in Macedonia was an international basketball tournament. Athletes in Action sent an American team coached by Tim Maloney, the Director of Basketball Operations at Baylor University. Baylor is home to a prominent autism resource center. Upon learning of John’s situation, Tim told him, “If you ever need anything, you just let me know.”
Well that “anything” that Jakus needed was an introduction to Scott Drew, coach of the Baylor Basketball program. Jakus would go to work with Drew at Baylor and his son would get the care he needed from the autism resource center. 2 years later, through a recommendation from the Baylor’s basketball program, Jakus was hired to join the Gonzaga staff. At Gonzaga, he works directly with the players. And while he doesn’t get the opportunity to openly evangelize as he did in Macedonia, he is praying that God will use him to impact the Bulldogs. He says “At first it was an odd thing for me. I felt underused. I talked to [AIA staff member] Mike Sigfrids about this, and he just brought up that Christ came to serve. And that you can make a difference in people’s lives by being a servant.”
My takeaway from Jakus’ story:
Keep on Trusting – How many times do we wonder what on earth God could be up to. He goes against what we think would be a perfect plan and turns our world upside down. We may feel confused, hurt, even bitter, but in reality, we are simply being invited to keep trusting Him. How has life thrown you a curve that pulled you from what seemed to make sense? Keep you eyes on Him and see where He leads you. I promise you that He has a plan for you and for the circumstance you are going through. It takes effort to keep on trusting. It means continually giving up control and believing that He has got it all figured out. I see this in Jakus’ story, and I see in it my story. Look at your story too. See those times when confusion was great and things seemed to be spinning out of control? Look again and see God at the center of it all, putting pieces in place to amaze you and accomplish incredible things through you and your story. Take notice, praise Him for it and share with those around you.
And to the Champs – University of North Carolina TarHeels.
Justin Jackson was named this year’s ACC player of the year. The 6’8″ Junior averaged over 18 points per game this year leading the TarHeels in scoring. He has another year of eligibility left and at this point is undecided about returning to North Carolina or entering the NBA. But as you can read in this article from Sports Spectrum, the decision that he makes will come after a lot of prayer and attention to God’s leading.
Prior to the championship game, he said “My faith is the biggest thing for me. Basketball will fail you. Everything else in life in my opinion will fail you. I say a prayer before every game and it’s always God’s will. That’s why I wrote it on my shoes to remind me.”
He is very outspoken about his faith in God. Check out his article from the Player’s Tribune for more.
My Takeaway from Jackson’s story
We Need Him more than He Needs us. – This seems silly to have written down, but it just jumped out at me. Jackson shares this episode in his freshman year when Coach Williams got after Jackson and another couple players about their work. He wanted them to work harder and if they were not going to, he was going to be done with them. And that is when he says he realized “I needed UNC way more than UNC needed me“. I’ve been in this place before. Not on the court at a top basketball practice being chastised by a college icon – I’ve never been there!! But I’ve been in the place where I feel like I’ve earned my spot, that I can rest on my achievements and I can coast. And while God is never going to kick me off his team, I need to be reminded that I needed Him to save me from my sins. He doesn’t need me to do anything for Him. He chooses to accomplish things through me, and asks for me to surrender to Him. But I need Him way more than He needs me. I pray that I always remember this and show my gratitude and joy at being on the team. May I be ready to be coached and follow His playbook.