I love basketball – and I love coaching. But sometimes, there are peripheral parts of the job that get in the way of my enjoyment of the game. Yes, I’m talking about referees!
One Saturday afternoon, I found myself on the sideline, watching as a referee blew his whistle and informed one of my eight-year-old players that he had committed a “five-second violation.” I could tell from my player’s shocked reaction that he was completely oblivious to what had just happened and couldn’t figure out what he had done wrong. The referee didn’t explain but turned to walk up the court.
Of course, I called out to him, “Hey, if you’re going to call that, you need to explain it to him.”
With a second blast of his whistle, the referee came hustling over to me, and according to eyewitnesses, stood two inches from my face. I’m unclear exactly how close he was to me, but I can tell you that he had eaten tuna and peanut butter for lunch. “If you speak again, I’m giving you a technical foul!” he growled, glowering at me.
Now, for those of you who know me in real life, how do you think I responded?
(I’ll wait… )
The truth is that several thoughts went through my head.
One, my wife was watching.
Two, my sons were watching.
Three, okay, the whole gym was watching.
And I … said nothing.
Many of you who have known me for quite some time are probably shocked (or you think I’m lying). But the truth is, I chose silence over speaking because it didn’t seem to be a positive if I spoke – but I could lead my team by staying silent.
Seriously – it’s the advice Joe Fox gives Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail: ” I must warn you that when you finally have the pleasure of saying the thing you mean to say at the moment you mean to say it, remorse inevitably follows.”
In one of the few moments I can identify in my life, I chose wisdom.
The Bible says that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). I’m not sure that’s exactly what kicked in that day on the basketball court – it might’ve been fear of my wife! – but there was a realization that my example in words and actions would be evaluated.
When it comes down to it, I want to be wise. I want to be mature (in progress, people, go easy!) But I never feel like I’m as wise or as mature as I want to be.
Take a minute, and write down the three people who come to mind when you think of being wise…
What are their qualifications for being wise? Are they “smart” by the world’s standards? Are they highly educated? Are they super old? Do you value them as wise because of their faith or is it something else?
To see where we might go for wisdom, I asked on Facebook what the best piece of advice my Facebook friends had been given. The answers were … diverse.
The Golden Rule…..Matthew 7:12. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat.
Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you should.
It wasn’t force that wore away the rock; it was the steady drip.
Sometimes you need to lift up the rug and see what’s in the dirt you’ve swept underneath.
There’s always three sides to a story and hear what’s not being said in what’s being said. They go together.
You can’t quit. You aren’t allowed to quit. You can say enough is enough. But you.cannot.quit!
Upon telling my father that I had a “stupid” teacher (while in grade school), he told me that there was something to learn from everyone, even if what I learned was NOT to be like that person.
People will never remember what you said or perhaps even what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
When I got drafted and just before I left for basic training, my father told me that was up to me whether I made a place a heaven or a hell. Meaning, no matter where the military sent me, I could had a choice as to how I responded.
A man is not measured by how many times he gets knocked down but by how many times he gets back up.
Whether you can or you think you can’t…. You’re right. (Henry Ford)
My favorite advice from one of our pastors that I’ve been able to use as a writer is that he wants to be finished talking before we are finished listening.
Don’t take everything so personally – it’s not all about you.
It’s never too late to be what you might have been.
Worry is the antithesis of prayer.
I’m not sure if my friends are putting all of this wise advice to work – but they’ve certainly received some good ones!
As we explore Character Counts, we’re going to tackle what wisdom really looks like.
In our Scripture from I Kings 3 today, Solomon has a good life – hey, it’s good to be king! – but when given a chance to choose one gift to receive from God, he asks for wisdom. As literally as we can translate, he asks that God would give him “a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” Solomon wants to make a good decision.
But like any other character, we can’t see how well we’ve achieved it or figured it out until we get to put it to use…
Two mothers walk into King Solomon’s court claiming that a child is theirs. One woman says it’s her child biologically and that the other woman’s son died and she stole the baby. Both women sound sincere so Solomon calls for a sword to split the baby in two – they can both have half! When the real mother cried out, “No, don’t kill him – she can have him!” Solomon knew that the baby was truly hers.
Can you imagine? Can you see the way that the woman must have appeared, in anguish, and yet Solomon saw right to the truth?
Inspired by God, born of experience and application, right?
Too often, we think wisdom is for old people – or “experienced” people if we’re going to be polite. But the truth is that just because you’ve lived a long time, or just because you’ve experienced a lot, it doesn’t actually make you wise. Wisdom is when you take what you know and what you’ve seen and apply it in the right way.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, said that we should examine all of our life situations through something he called the quadrilateral. It was Scripture, Reason, Experience, and Tradition. He heavily weighted the four on scripture – the written, inspired, and vetted word of God that has been handed down to us in the Old and New Testaments. Then he added our ability to think and process things, our ability to consider past situations we had been in, and the opportunity to reflect on the way that Christians had handled the situation in the past. It’s not exactly a math equation, but it ends up being “wisdom.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I find myself in situations frequently where I wish I was wiser. It’s true when I’m making my own decisions:
Should I have an extra piece of pizza?
Is that movie really one I want to watch and will it be good for my soul?
How do I respond when I am being treated unfairly?
What should be the fair and just response in disciplining one of my children?
But there’s also a desire to be wise when it comes to helping others..
Like the time one of my student’s asked me if it was okay to spend their financial aid on a sweatshirt because they’d forgotten one at home.
Or the time a friend approached me about a situation with their spouse.
Or when one of my sons recounts a story from school where they had to deal with a troublesome classmate.
At those moments, I find myself crying out for wisdom. And I realize that Solomon asked for wisdom before he needed it – so that his life and situations were bathed in wisdom from the very beginning.
I hope today that you’ll pray for wisdom – for you and for me. I had more people want to talk to me about that basketball game than any other game I’ve ever coached. And I knew I could hold my head up because I’d been silent – and that people were watching to see how I’d react.
That’s one of the lessons I’ve learned in life: people are always watching, and you lead them one way or another. I learned that from watching my parents – who are still the greatest sources of living, breathing wisdom I’ve ever had.
In fact, after finishing the rough draft of the sermon, I spent an hour in the car and was flooded with the life lessons people – often my parents – imparted to me.
Always eat breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day. (My Mom)
It doesn’t matter whether the person takes out the trash on the weekends or runs the whole [school/company/church], they are each a child of God.
Never miss the opportunity to tell someone that you love them.
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
Do your best. [Years later, Friday Night Lights would deliver this in a perfect halftime speech.] (My dad.)
God will receive into heaven each believer, regardless of the denomination, gender, or eloquence of the person who shares the good news.
You can’t control what the person in the other lane is doing.
Never give up.
We play for an Audience of One (FCA’s theme a few years ago).
Your integrity is something no one can ever take from you.
God does not abandon what God has created.
Now, not all of those lessons were actually spoken – but they all provide wisdom that guides my life.
See, wisdom is learned from reading, from watching, from doing. If we want to be wise, we have to act it out – we have to live.
I’m still not as wise as I want to be. But I realize that if I’m ever going to be one of the three names someone writes down under “wise,” that each choice I make matters, each word spoken or left unspoken counts, just like character.
What would it take for you to be on someone’s “wisdom” list? Pray to God and get to work living it out- it’s where to start.
Good advice, Jacob. It is not easy to take criticism, especially in public, in front of an audience. You do such a good job writing. I don’t always take the time to read every sermon or blog, but when I do, I enjoy them. Lorraine Brandon
Thank you, Lorraine!