I was out of breath. It could be the thin air of Denver, Colorado or it could be that I smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day. But either way I was gasping to stay in the game and was not succeeding.
It was a regular pick-up game on the courts near my house, not far from where Denver’s airport is now. Basketball was my game 10 years ago, in high school, but now I was in a game where most of the players were the age I was back then, and I was the ‘old man’ and this day I was resembling that remark. Slow and breathing hard, I could not keep up with the kid I was guarding.
I called for a break and the kids all chuckled, “Yeah, let’s let the old man take a break, he looks like he is ready to croak.” I shook my head and gave them a dismissing wave. But they were right. How did I go from playing ball for hours at a time to not being able to play for a half hour? As I sat down near my car, opening the cooler that held a six-pack of Coors beer, I knew the answer. Popping the top on the beer, it was too many of these and way too many cigarettes. But what the heck, I wasn’t a kid anymore. I had nothing to prove. At least I could still play with these young punks, I thought.
As I sat there one of the kids came over and sat next to me. He was eyeing the beer and I had an idea that he wanted to ask for one. The law in Colorado at the time allowed drinking of 3/2 beer at the age of 18 but I was pretty sure this kid was 16 maybe 17. I didn’t say or do anything. I just sipped on my beer and waited. He didn’t ask for a beer but seemed intent on something else. What did he want? I wasn’t in the mood for a heart to heart talk. Soon he spoke.
“You used to play back in high school, didn’t you? Most of the guys think your still pretty good for an old guy.” All of 26 and I was already the ‘old guy’ life wasn’t fair. I nodded my head but said nothing. He continued, “Did you ever play college ball? I have had a few scouts from some local schools UCD, and others come to scout me out. But I don’t know if I want to do an athletic scholarship. I am planning to go to a theological college in Kansas.” With that he was quiet, I guess waiting for me to make a comment, so I did. “No, I never played ball in college. I was a pretty good high school player, but I knew I didn’t have what it took to play at that level. But you, yeah, I think you have the goods. Why not put that theology stuff on the back burner or go to a college that has both ball and the studies you want?”
He looked away, with a serious expression. Then he turned to face me and said, “No, my dad and mom really have their heart set on me being a minister, like my dad. They are afraid if I go to a big school, I will get all involved in college life and forget about God.” Wow, I thought, an awful lot to lay on a kid! Being a Catholic dropout, I thought I was not the right guy to give this boy advice, but I said anyway, “Do you really want to be a minister? Maybe a few years in college will clear it all up for you. You seem kinda young to be committing your life to something you’re not sure about.” He nodded but then was distracted by the other kids wanting to get back at it. I guzzled my beer and wearily headed back to the court; glad I didn’t have to face the stuff this youngster did.
Decisions. Everyone of us from the time we come of age have had to make decisions that would affect our lives for years to come. I made many in my teens and early twenties from which
I am still feeling the repercussions. My problem, as I have stated here many times, was that I did not have a relationship with God the Father. I did not know the saving power of Jesus Christ and I could not rely on the guiding light of the Holy Spirit. I made these major decisions alone with my limited years of experience and lack of knowledge of the world we live in. And I can tell you that as I fell into that pattern, I made one mistake after another. And as I did that, I became more and more lost in a world of hopeless anguish. And, of course, hurt many people a long the way.
Today I am writing to those who probably never read this blog. I want to tell our youth that this is the day, if they do not already have it, to seek a relationship with Jesus Christ. But if a young one reads this or not it is our job, as those who have experienced life and know what Jesus can do, to encourage our youth. And maybe today share with a youngster you know one or two of these Bible promises:
When they are unsure of their future: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
When they are afraid and feeling depressed: “So, do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
When they are working for the Lord and feel discouraged: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
When they just feel this world is an overwhelming place: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
There are so many more that we can encourage with. And yes, they are meant for us too, but so needed by our forgotten youth. Today could be the day one of them you know is trying to make a life decision, do not let them do it alone. Open the door of the Holy Spirit for them, it could mean life or death!
I certainly did not do that for the youth back years ago. We played ball together several times after that but never really talked again. I pray he made a decision guided by the Holy Spirit. I feel so sad for all the young I have failed to lead to the Word, including my own son. But it is a new day and there is hope, may we share Jesus with one of his children today!