Fathers and Sons, Faith and Basketball
Every father knows that the day will come when his son will beat him in sports. When my son was born, among the gifts of diapers, onesies, bibs and pacifiers was a small baseball glove. I think it was my favorite gift. Thus, started the waiting game. It wasn’t long before I could toss a ball underhanded and my son could actually catch it! In no time, we were actually playing different sports and games together. Of course, I took it easy, letting him win. As he grew, my son began to hate when I would let him win. Be it ping pong or basketball, he would ask, “Are you trying your best?” It was important to him to be able to beat his father at his best!
And then it happened. I can’t even recall the first time he beat me in anything. It was more of a gradual thing. But then, it happened more and more. Now, the scales of competitive balance have tipped in the other direction. I can occasionally compete with him in basketball. Our ping pong games literally go back and forth (sorry). I have to say that this time in our competitive lives is really fun for me. Tomorrow it will be over. In the blink of an eye, he’ll be taking it easy on me. In fact, I’ve started to wonder if he’s trying hard if I happen to make a basket on the court.
The truth is, I’ve always wanted him to be better than me – better than I ever was. It brings me joy and pride to know that my son can and will do things I never could. When he accomplishes goals far earlier than I ever did, we celebrate! What kind of father would I be if I didn’t want my son to surpass me? I clearly remember my own father’s joy and pride when I grew taller than he stood, when he could no longer beat me in basketball or tennis, or when I could reach high notes on the trumpet that he couldn’t approach. I knew he was proud of me and I was proud of myself. Why? He was my father. I respected him, wanted to be like him. If my son wants to be like me and surpass me … I can’t ask for much more.
Exodus 20:12 – the 5th Commandment – directs us to honor our fathers and mothers. It includes the promise of long life in the land the Lord is giving. What does that really mean? While obedience and respect are certainly a part of this command, the heart of the matter is that the next generation is to embody the same spiritual DNA as that of the previous generation. We live in a society that is clearly full of perversions, temptations and values that war with God. How can we ensure that our children won’t stray from the truth in God’s Word – and THE truth: Jesus? Sadly, we can’t ensure it.
What we can do is start tossing the ball when our children are barely old enough to catch it. We teach them and introduce them to Christ from the cradle. As they grow, we take them deeper and deeper in the faith relationship. We never stop the spiritual investment.
Right now, I smile in wonder when I watch my son make a great move on the court. Will I share the same fascination when he teaches me a deep, spiritual truth? Will I be filled with gratitude and righteous pride when he impacts the Kingdom of God more than I ever have?
I hope so.
And maybe I’ll still be able to beat him at ping pong, too.
Pastor Chris Bailey