"Oh to Grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be.
Let thy goodness, like a fetter
bind my wandering heart to Thee!"

Monday, March 16, 2009

It's Been a While...

Wow I can't believe I haven't written anything since January. I apologize for that, and I really do hope that with the season winding down now I will have more time to contribute to this. I realize so much now the providence of having to sit out of basketball last year because of my transfer. It was right after the Lord had awakened me out of cultural Christianity, and He divinely placed me in a situation where I could dedicate time and energy to the ministry and really study His word and also share my thoughts through the means of this blog. Now that I am almost finished with this season I now see how much of my LIFE it takes up. I mean it is my fourth year of college basketball so it wasn't a surprise, but taking the year off and then coming back really put it in perspective. I just am really praising God that He brought me back to the game of basketball this year with a completely different perspective on things. I went from basically worshipping the game (and really myself) to submitting my ways to the Lord even though that is really hard to do in such a secular (and prideful) environment. It hasn't been easy by any means. The Lord has had to walk with me hand in hand and also be there to correct me when I would lose sight of what really matters. I think the most amazing thing that I have learned this year is this: what is great in the eyes of the world is not always great in the eyes of God.

Ok, that sounds really really simple and elementary, but please listen to me when I say that the Lord has taught me this in the most personal and outright way that He could. It is one thing to profess that you believe that God's idea of great isn't always going to be great to your flesh or to the rest of the world, but it is a completely different thing for God to take it and penetrate your soul and let it transform your life. This is deep stuff; that is what I am learning right now. I don't know about you, but anytime the Lord is teaching me something, I can feel it. I don't mean that in the sense of 'oh I get the fuzzy wuzzies'...I mean I can feel something stirring on the inside of me. It's almost a restless feeling I get deep within me, as if I can feel the Lord transforming me from the inside out. I don't mean to freak you out with that, but most of the time I really do feel that way. I think it is whenever the Lord is taking something that I have believed on the surface level for so long and then starts renewing my mind and transforming my life with it- just like He promises He will do in His Word. Wow, just thinking about this process right now is overwhelming me. You see, this year has been a tough one for me (and by year I think more in terms of basketball seasons so really I am referring to the last 9 months or so- sorry its just how my brain operates). Not in the sense of "whoa is me" because it has still been a great year, but just in the sense of I have struggled a lot and I have failed a lot and I have felt far from God a lot. All of that being my fault and a result of not taking the opportunity to truly spend time with the Lord and make sure that I was lining myself up with Him and His word. Examining yourself takes time and effort...and I found that it is something that you can easily put on the backburner if you aren't careful. On the flipside there has been great things happen as well- and there were times when I had amazing time spent with the Lord. I guess it was just a testing time for me.

So I sat down tonight and I put my fingers to this keyboard and I had NO IDEA what I was going to write ahead of time. All this just starting coming out. And let me say that these past few moments have been so refreshing. Just recalling the faithfulness of my Lord is blowing me away, and I am sad to say that I have missed writing because it is a way that the Lord really brings into perspective just how much He is teaching me and transforming me. But no doubt His timing is sovereign. God taught me a lot last year through the triumphant times of sharing truth with others and being blessed enough to watch seeds of the Gospel take root and transform people's lives right before my eyes. And then in contrast, He has taken this year of more dry and desert-like times to teach me just as much. And bless me just as much. I guess this is where the whole "great to you doesn't always look great to God" thing comes in...

I know I sound like a broken record, but playing college basketball is grueling. It is a mental and physical drainer that can really drag you through the mud if you let it run your life. The emotional ups and downs could put someone in the crazy house. haha. But seriously. I don't say that for your sympathy. I chose to play it and in return it has been one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. I am saying that just so you can get the setting of what I am going to share. You give up hours and hours of your day to go through workouts that make you want to cry. To get treated sometimes like you aren't a human being. To be put on a huge stage for the world to see, and wondering again why you would take on something with so much pressure when you could just be like an ordinary college kid. Then something comes along that makes it so worthwhile that it's enough to get you through it. It's a business. Sometimes you feel so helpless and you don't know where or who to turn to because you will just be reminded with the cold reality that it's a business just like everything else.

So when I started to face all of this again this year, I found myself feeling, again, so helpless. Thoughts of "man if I could just get my chance" or "why am I doing all of this if it's never getting noticed." I began to become very uneasy and antsy about my position on the team. I would play a lot, then I wouldn't. I would play a lot, then I wouldn't. And no matter what I realized that I wasn't really in control at all. And as a basketball player it is difficult to not get caught up in the appearance of things. For the many games I started this year I was excited that people would see me and see that I started for Florida and be impressed. Then for the many games that I just sat there on the bench and played very little I was worried what people would think about me then. While that seems natural for a human being, it is sin at its finest. But you see how this up and down teeter-totter could drive you insane. It is the very definition of living in a fish bowl. But like I said, none of this happened in vain. The Lord was up to something....something huge.

While acknowledging that appearance in the eyes of the world meant nothing, I still was struggling. Similar to how I had mentally assented to the truths of the gospel for a long time, it took God’s work in me to make it truly come alive and transform me. No doubt the Lord had done a mighty work in me over the past two years where he really ripped the idol of basketball out of my life. Sitting out gave me the correct perspective on it; I really didn't live for basketball anymore. This I can say with a clear conscience because it definitely didn't control my every thought like it used to. I had released it in the sense of I didn't derive my happiness from it and I really could not play it anymore and move on with my life. But then there was another step that the Lord wanted to take it. With all that said, I was still struggling with this "hey this isn't fair" attitude, and I was also (as I just mentioned) still sinfully worried about the outward appearance of things. I kept asking the Lord why I kept finding myself in the same position over and over again. Why was I continually feeling shortchanged and frustrated? Why do I see all these other people, who don't fear God at all, get things handed to them. Why are they getting the opportunity to reap the success? Ah, yes that's right. Success as defined by who? Man, the Lord had nailed me.

At the same time I was questioning why I was even playing the dang sport. I mean if it no longer defines me, and I could walk away from the game without it destroying me, then what was I waiting around for? But the Lord is faithful and always goes above and beyond anything I could ever fathom with my human mind. He took this opportunity to really put things in perspective of how selfish I truly was being. I mean who said I was playing basketball so that I could do amazing things ON the court. What about the countless opportunities that I get to be a witness for Him simply because I am on the team. I had been looking at things so wrong. I was thinking of it all in terms of how it affected me when really it wasn't about that at all. But God was still gracious enough to change me in the process. He used a series of things that really reminded me of the simple truth that HE defines success, not this world. Man!

1 Corinthians 3:19-23
"For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness," and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile." So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's."

1Corinthians 1:20-21
"Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe."

Those are just a few verses that remind us that indeed, we don't define what is good and what is right. God does. (I will share with you at a later date more details on what the Lord used from His word to wake me up.) And as foolish as it might 'look' to the world for me to sit there on the bench it might be JUST what the Lord is using to bring glory to his name. Um, what a lesson to learn. Especially for an athlete. Talk about dying to self. And folks, let me tell you, it took an act of God. It took a miracle for Him to open up my eyes to this truth. Because if left up to me I would have remained in my sinful covetous, grumbling, unsatisfied state. I could write for days and days on the importance of theology and why mine was the reason why I was ever able to see these amazing truths about the God that we serve. He is indeed sovereign, and He is indeed the one who orchestrates, plans, wills and brings to pass EVERYTHING that takes place- and all for His glory. Not even a sparrow falls without His permission. Praise God for that. I never once had to worry whether or not His will was being accomplished through my suffering. I simply had to turn my eyes up to Him and be reminded again that He was in control and that I was an instrument to display HIS glory. Not my own. Not the fleshly desires of Susan Yenser. Man, what a deep truth that was starting to penetrate the depths of me. I could actually feel the Lord changing my mind, renewing it. Making it think completely different because it was so channeled to think like the world. I mean how could it not. Everything around me is telling me to care what the world thinks. Thankfully my God is Almighty and can overpower the principalities of this world. The Lord is doing a work in me that cannot be explained. It is beyond me. It is IN SPITE of me. And it is still taking place. This all happened pretty recently...in fact the season is still going on. We are headed to the first round of the NCAA tournament this weekend...yay :) The Lord has blessed me so much.

So there you have it. I guess I sat down tonight to get all of that off my chest. To share with you guys the faithfulness of the Lord. To encourage you that the Lord is sovereign and in control of ALL things. Please pray that the Lord continues this work that He has started in me. It is farrrr from complete. I still struggle with this, but each time I am reminded of the freedom that is found in the yoke of the Lord. Imagine that. Oh and I can't WAIT to share with you guys the passages/studies that the Lord put in my path to wake me up to these truths. I know I wrote sooo much in this post. I didn't plan to at all. I just couldn't stop. And I didn't even get to the details of the studies, but I will do that in my next couple posts FOR SURE. But I must get to bed. Please check back so I can show you the John Piper lesson that really smacked me in the face with my sin of coveting the things of this world over the precious treasure that is found in Heaven. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. He has saved me from the bondage of sin! Soli Deo Gloria!

ps- I would like to thank the "anonymous" person for posting a comment recently on my last post to remind me to post more often. No doubt God used that comment to spur me on to write this post after having gone so long. God used you, my friend. Thank you.

Matthew 11:25-30
"I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."