My middle girl started 6th grade this year and began playing basketball this season. I love basketball. My husband and I both played basketball in school, so we are thrilled to be basketball parents for as long as we have kids interested in playing. We load up the whole family for all the home games and my crew cheers our Crusaders onto victory. So far the Crusaders have been undefeated this season. In fact, they have only lost 2 games in the past 2 seasons. They know how to win.
It’s interesting to watch this team play. It’s a small team with a lot of young players. There’s two 8th graders. They have the most experience and they are real leaders on the court and I suspect off the court as well. They have played a lot of basketball so when it comes to the game they are fierce. They aren’t afraid to drive in to the goal. Having the most experience, they have the least fear. There’s also two 7th graders. They don’t play with the same intensity as the 8th graders, but they are so steady. They have a quiet strength that shows through when they are on the court. They are where they need to be when they need to be there. They are great at assisting and they are vital to a winning season. The rest of the team is five 6th graders. Most haven’t played basketball before. They are a little unsure at times because it is all so new, but when they get time in the game they give it all they’ve got and they are learning to be good basketball players. I love to watch all of them. They are beautiful girls with beautiful hearts.
Friday night we had a home game and right from the start the opposing team came out with a full court press. They had a huge team with a sea of blue uniforms on their bench. They had so many players that they could rotate them in and out, always giving the players on the court a chance to rest. With this big of a team they employed the full court press the entire game. In additions, the other team kept trapping our players. It was intense. I thought I was going to have to send my husband home before he had a heart attack. The opposition hit us hard in the first quarter and rattled our team a little bit. But our girls are great ball players and once they settled down and got over the shock they began to play the kind of basketball that they are known for.
In the end, the Crusaders gained some ground against the other team, but it wasn’t enough to win. The record will not show an undefeated season this year and the scoreboard showed a loss. This loss will be hard on them because when you’re used to winning the losses seem to sting more. But the truth of this game is that the scoreboard does not tell the whole truth.
Our starting line-up played almost the whole game with no rest. They had to be exhausted. But they never slowed down. Not even for a second. They were live David facing Goliath, but they never quit giving it their all. The opposing team had some really obnoxious fans, but our girls never lost their testimony. They treated the other team with respect. They were never unkind or angry. I saw some of our players reach down and help up girls from the other team when they ended up on the floor. The Crusaders were a picture of dignity and strength, even in the face of the nay-sayers. They exhibited maturity. More maturity, in fact, than the adults in the stands. The kind of maturity that caused the referees to notice and mention it to our coaches.
The other team had a coach that yelled and screamed…at the players….at the refs. She was an emotional wreck. I was embarrassed for her. No Coach should ever disparage kids. Period. Especially not in front of their families and fans. Our coaches never lost their cool. I heard Coach yell out to the girls when the other fans were booing and hissing, “Just play ball, don’t listen to any of that.” He reminded them that they knew how to play basketball. I was proud to be a Crusader Friday night. I hate it that the girls lost and the competitive side of me hopes our girls have a chance to play this team again…..and clean their clock. But all the Crusader fans in the stands Friday night couldn’t be more proud of those girls. I found myself thinking while they were playing that this game looked a lot like my life and maybe yours too.
For those of us who walk with Christ we are Crusaders of the Cross. Warriors. And there is always opposition. The enemy of our soul wants us to walk in defeat, but we really want to live victorious. The more experience we have against the opposition the more fierce we are in the fight. Sometimes we face new struggles and we find ourselves unsure but staying steady is key.
Sometimes it seems like I win every battle against the opposition. In those moments I walk tall, like I just can’t lose. But then there are other times when the opposition comes at me so strong, fast and hard that it rattles me. I find myself reeling from the intensity of the attack. And in those moments I feel like I just can’t win.
I have a daughter who is profoundly Autistic and helping her have the life she needs is a battle. As her mom, I fight for her every day. For the past year we have had one victory after another with her. We’ve watched her grow and progress and we have loved winning. Winning is amazing. It took a lot of years to get to this point. Just like the Crusader basketball team, who lost a lot of games in seasons past before they became a winning team, we lost a lot of battles for Cadence in years past. But recently we’ve won every battle. It has felt great….until a few days ago when we had a significant setback with her. A loss. And you know what? It hurts. In basketball and life, when you are used to winning, the losses seem to hurt more.
It’s crazy how one defeat can mess up our heads. We start to tell ourselves we can’t win. Satan wants us to think that. He wants us to believe that victory is out of reach. He wants us to grow weary in the battle because there is no time to rest. He wants us to feel trapped and isolated. He wants us to forget that we know how to win. He puts nay-sayers in our path to discourage and distract us from the real enemy. But just like Coach reminded those girls to keep focused on the game that they know how to play, Jesus reminds us of the truth.
And here is the truth friends. The same truth that applies to those Crusaders on the court applies to all of us who are Crusaders of the Cross. The truth is the scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story. The truth is that one loss does not make us losers. The truth is that we are more than Conquerors through Jesus Christ and victory is ours. We can live as winners. Because we are winners.
Maybe you have experienced a loss lately. In your work or business. In your marriage or family. In your health or finances. In a relationship or in school. Hear me now. The scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story. Don’t quit when you are tired. There’s still time to gain back the ground the opposition has taken. Stay steady. Christ won’t disparage you, but wants to gently remind you of who you are and that you know how to win. One loss does not define you. God defines you. And this is what He says: “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us”. – Romans 8:37 (NLT)
For the girls on the court and the faith-walkers in the trenches of battle there’s only one thing left to say. Go Crusaders!