My mother often retold the story of my debut in the limelight. At age three, my line in the church Christmas program was, “I’m so small, not very tall, but I just want to wish you a MEWWY CWISTMAS!”
I don’t remember that event. But I do recall how much I wanted a part in my senior class play in high school.
Okay, I wanted the lead role. Or a major speaking part.
Instead, I was a stage hand.
Oh, yes, I did have a walk-on role as a policeman. I still remember, with clarity, my three brief lines. (And I didn’t deliver them memorably. I was a horrible actor.)
Many times I was that kid in school with my hand raised high, willing my teacher, “Pick me, pick me!”
I desperately wanted to make the basketball team my freshman year in high school. During tryouts my classmates were scrimmaging at one end of the gym. One of the shortest kids, I nervously waited my turn to show my (lack of) skills.
Finally, the coach called my name, inserting me at point guard. One of the tallest freshmen, Jesse Turner, guarded me. I dribbled the ball at the top of the key, unsure of what to do. Jesse stayed a few feet away, taunting, daring me, “Shoot it!”
I heaved the ball toward the basket. It banked off the backboard and dropped through the net! (Back then it was still a two-point shot.)
No one was more surprised than I. My classmates laughed and cheered!
Except Jesse. “Lucky!”
“Run it again,” said the coach.
With a bit more confidence I glanced left, then right, looking to pass. No one was free. Jesse still played off me. I hoisted a shot – and it went in!
“Again!” said the coach.
Jesse stepped closer. “No way you could do that again,” he snarled.
I dribbled toward him, and he backed up.
I stopped and shot. Basket! Being “in the zone” was a brand-new experience for me.
Twice more I was handed the ball, Jesse crowding my space. My teammates egged me on. “Shoot!”
I did. Two swishes. Nothing but net!
This was only a scrimmage, not a real game. But I was exhilarated!
Mr. Mooney walked to the other end of the court. He said to the varsity coach, “You gotta take a look at this.”
Coach Healey came over. Like a proud papa showing off his son’s talents, Mr. Mooney said, “Do it again, Taber.”
I had just made five consecutive shots from beyond the foul line, even when closely guarded. I was “on fire.” Stardom awaited. I could do this with my eyes closed!
Except I couldn’t. My next shot clanked off the rim, and my next three were no better. My hot streak had ended – under the gaze of the varsity coach. I wilted, totally deflated.
Coach Mooney felt betrayed. Mr. Healey gave him a “Don’t bother me” look and went back to real basketball. I went back to the bench, having earned the scoffing nickname “Varsity Material.”
I made the team, the last boy on the roster. I might have played a total of ten “real game” minutes all season – once the score was out of reach and I could do no harm.
The bruising reality was, I loved basketball, but I wasn’t very good. I grew to 6’ 4” and played a couple of years in college, but never made a varsity basketball team.
The truth was, I didn’t deserve a leading role on the basketball court or on stage. My bruised ego had to deal with the reality that at best I might deserve a life of obscurity, if not significant failure.
By God’s grace, many times I have been given opportunities far beyond my abilities. I’ve been privileged to preach on five continents, teach hundreds of classes, conduct weddings and funerals of family and friends.
And I learned early that I don’t deserve any of what the Lord has enabled me to do.
Scripture has given me God’s perspective on my battle with pride. First, a command (by way of rebuke) from the Hebrew Scriptures: “And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not….”
Second, a reality check from the New Covenant: “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD.”
Thank you, Lord, for picking me!
God is very kind, and creative. Whenever I get that “pick me!” itch for stardom, He reminds me I have a lot to be humble about.
What about you? In what areas are you tempted by pride? How do you combat it? We’d love to hear your story.