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Endless fun. Inspiring teachers. Hopes and dreams coming to fruition. As we reflect on this past year, we can’t help but think of these things. There have been so many little “Kingdom moments” when God, in all his glory, has given us blessing upon blessing amongst the challenges of being an in-person school for 2020-2021.
That’s why we are so excited to present The Covenant Chronicle to you. The goal for this newsletter is to not only highlight the highs of the school year but take a moment to reflect and say thank you to all who have contributed to making this year as fun and inspiring as it has been.
I don’t know how many of you knew me back when I was in late-elementary to middle school, but if you didn’t, you can ask several of the teachers here, like Mr. Szym or Mrs. Blake what I was like. In those days I was easily consumed by anger over the most trivial of things. If someone were beating me at a game, especially one I thought I was good at, I would get angry and usually claim the other people were cheating. If other people criticized anything I did, that would make me angry, especially when their criticism was true. Even when people disagreed with me in a discussion, I became angry. My pride could not handle it, and I lost control of myself. So, what’s changed? Why am I different now? It certainly isn’t because I had some single, dramatic change of heart and overcame my anger by my own power. To be honest, I couldn’t trace a straight line for you from where I was back then to where I am now, but I do know what power lies behind that transformation.
In Titus 2:11-14, Paul says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” The reason I can have self-control over my anger now is because of the grace of God given to me by Jesus on the cross. My biggest self-control issue in middle school was anger, but self-control applies to all our passions.
Dr. Timothy Dernlan defines self-control as “the ability to manage your emotions, thoughts, and actions in an intentionally restrained manner for the good of others.” Perhaps you find it hard not to be mean in how you speak to or about others. Maybe you just can’t bring yourself to stop playing long enough to do your homework and chores. The first step in becoming more self-controlled is identifying where you allow your emotions to control you. If you aren’t sure, I’m sure your parents and your teachers would be more than happy to point you in the right direction. Ask God to help you live rightly, even when you don’t really feel like it. I know if I had asked God for help in my anger that it would not have been an issue for me as long as it was. I know it’s hard to be self-controlled but remember that Jesus did not back down from dying on the cross for you, even though it was harder than anything any of us have been asked to do.
I challenge you not to back down from hard things just because you don’t feel like doing them, and don’t just let your emotions control you. Through God’s power, you can control your emotions and actions. Choose daily to follow Christ’s example of self-control in order to live a godly life. Start small with something specific in your life, like controlling your anger, choosing to speak kind words, or obeying your parents, even when you don’t feel like doing it. Don’t forget to ask God for help. Go, “live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,” in whatever you do and wherever you go.
From the outside looking in, the start of our season was a success. The win column certainly could attest to that. 3-0. What more could we want? What the win column couldn’t speak to was the internal wrestling going on in my heart as coach. Sooner or later I knew I had to confront the darkness in my own heart, I just didn’t think it would be in the fourth game of the season.
We played maybe our worst half of basketball all season in that game, and I was making sure my players knew it—criticizing their sloppy play and amplifying their mistakes. At halftime, I turned to Coach Seay and told him he needed to talk to the guys, knowing my own words would be drenched in negativity. We ended up winning the game, but my drive home was miserable. I was ashamed of the anger and resentment I carried toward my players during the course of that game. It seemed like the more competitive we were becoming as a program, the uglier I got as a coach. I didn’t know who I was as a coach, and my lack of identity left me lost and floundering.
I knew I couldn’t continue coaching if things stayed the same, so I turned to the Lord, laying all my struggles and sins before Christ, asking Him to give me a Christ-centered coaching identity and to birth a Christ-centered vision in my heart for this basketball program. It sounds simple, but that is exactly what was missing: Christ Himself was absent from our program. In fact, he had been absent from my athletic experience throughout my entire life.
Athletics has always been compartmentalized, outside and irrelevant to my apprenticeship to Jesus. Looking back, it became clear how God had been using a variety of relationships, events, teachings, and conversations in my life to plant the seeds for this new vision God was about to birth in me. I began to realize that if Jesus truly is King of the universe that means he is King over the game of basketball, which also meant that there was a way to play this game that truly honored the King, a way that embodied the heart and character of Christ on the court, and a way that bore witness to the reality of His Lordship in my life. This way to play the game became known as "The Narrow Path."
Narrow Path Basketball meant coming under the authority of Christ and making him the center of our basketball program. When we did that, everything changed. Suddenly, the team truly took on an identity that was in Christ as we looked to the life and teachings of Jesus to guide and direct our approach to the game. We honored the King by following the path He has already carved out—a path marked by humility, discipline, resolve, faithfulness, composure, love for each other, and love for our enemies.
This is the game of basketball surrendered back to God, and He has borne much fruit because of it. The success we’ve had as a team in the 2020-21 season has been because our guys have taken this Narrow Path; they have surrendered their allegiance to King Jesus out on the basketball court, and it has made all the difference.