This past Saturday Marianne and I attended the season finale of the Upward Basketball League, sponsored by First Baptist Church in LaGrange.
We were there to watch our seven-year-old granddaughter, Kaitlyn Walker, cheer. Quite naturally, she was the best cheerleader there. Not just on her squad, but on all the squads! (Paw-paw’s opinion!)
As the buzzer sounded ending the final game, Ed Batchelor, a member of First Baptist Church, who was running the time clock and seemed to be in control of the activities, addressed the crowd for about three to four minutes.
He said something to the effect of, “We have tried to teach your children that in the game of basketball, the team which scores the most baskets wins. We also teach them that in order to score a basket they must put the ball through the hoop and this takes effort and teamwork. It is not good enough to intend to put the ball through the hoop, to get close to the hoop, to hit the backboard, to hit the rim, or to have the ball roll around the rim and drop without going through the hoop. To score a basket the ball must go through the hoop.”
He continued, “We also try to teach them that life is the same. In life, it is not good enough to intend to do something, to try to do something, or to get close to doing something. To score a basket in life we are required, metaphorically speaking, to put the ball through the hoop and this requires effort and teamwork.”
As a pastor, when I preached children’s sermons, the adults in my congregations usually got more out of them than they did my grown folk’s sermons.
Saturday, I realized how they felt. My granddaughter probably didn’t hear a word Brother Ed said. However, his words resonated with me. I began to think, “Ed’s right! There are times in life when nothing else will do except to put the proverbial ball through the hoop.”
Now, being the deep thinker that I am, I began to think about another game we play – horseshoes. In this game, being close does count!
In fact, you can win the game and never score a ringer! Being the genius that I am, I surmised that, just like with basketball, there must be a life application that can be taught from just getting close. I swelled up with pride thinking I had solved one of life’s hidden mysteries.
I thought: To be successful in any endeavor in life, according to the endeavor, we can be successful by either putting the ball through the hoop or just getting close.
The secret is figuring out which one will suffice for which situation. I then began trying to think of illustrations that would prove my theory that there are times when just getting close brings success. Alas, aside from horseshoes and hand grenades, I couldn’t come up with any!
I came to the realization that our acceptance and embrace of the practice of “getting close” is a devastating practice. It is devastating our society, our churches, and our families.
Every Sunday, all across America, congregations from all denominations meet corporately and get close to being the church Jesus intended. They are filled with attendees and members who have gotten close to having a personal relationship with Jesus.
America is filled with couples, heterosexual and homosexual, living in adulterous relationships that mimic marriage, but have only gotten close.
Children all across America are being born into dysfunctional families that at one time came close to or used to be traditional, functioning families. Far too many people, good people, have set noble and honorable goals for themselves, only to get close to achieving them and then settle for a settled for life.
And on and on I could go. The message is clear. Whether it be salvation, religion, family, politics, education, industry, discipline, or just plain ole common sense – Ed Batchelor was right! In life, only one thing is acceptable. Only one thing counts. Only one thing scores: Putting the ball through the hoop.
When will we as Christians and Americans once again demand excellence in all we do, stop settling for “getting close,” and once again start putting the ball through the hoop?