The Punt

Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not! So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:29-31 New Living Translation).

The Punt
Photo by David Cobb /Chattanooga Times Free Press. This article implies nothing about this athlete or his team!

When I was in the 8th grade, I played on our junior high football and basketball teams. I had fun, though I wasn’t a starter. Still, I did get some playing time and had some experiences I will never forget– no matter how hard I try!

One of my most memorable experiences was playing in the football game against our arch rival, Mt. Healthy (or Oak Hills– since we had a number of arch rivals!). I was a safety– which meant I guarded against the pass and the long run– trying to tackle the guys everybody else missed. (It always bothered me that I got in so much trouble for missing a tackle when the bigger guys should have brought him down long before he reached me…).

Anyway, in this game, we kept them from getting a first down, so I went back to receive the punt. This was one of those dream situations for an eighth grader because, as I judged the distance he was likely to kick it, I ended up standing right across from our cheerleaders. There was, literally, a little red-haired girl that I had been interested in for some time.  (I hasten to add that Sarah and I grew up in different towns in Ohio and didn’t meet until my junior year in high school).

Like most junior high boys, I really thought the way to a girl’s heart was to impress them with some manly achievement like catching a dramatic pass and running for a touchdown, or getting knocked out, or suffering a severe injury that would require a transfusion– something like that. Little did I realize that the girls hardly ever noticed because they were talking– or else they just thought we guys were stupid.

So here, I thought, was my opportunity to make an impression. I hadn’t drawn blood on any tackles yet, but now all eyes were on me as the punter kicked the ball.

It was a high kick going right toward the sidelines in front of our cheerleaders. Oh, this was perfect! I can still feel it– the adrenaline pumping, the fans screaming wildly (or maybe that was just me!), and the thundering sound of tacklers bearing down on me like ferocious beasts.

The ball hung in the air forever. I waved for a fair catch. You do that when you know you can catch the ball but can’t run because the tacklers are too close. It’s really a smart move– as opposed to getting chased backwards, or just getting creamed when you catch the ball and are “unguarded.”

So I waved my hand for the fair catch. But– you probably guessed it– the one thing you must never do on a fair catch is drop the ball, because then all’s fair as far as tackling goes. You can get creamed and you can lose the ball…

and you can blow your chances of ever impressing the little red-haired girl…

and you can lose all confidence in ever putting on a football uniform again…

and you can decide to join the marching band instead…

and you can still have nightmares of dropping the ball…

Oh, sorry… got lost in my thoughts there for a moment. Guess you know what happened.

I did learn a basic lesson in life: Without the ball, you can’t do anything.

I also began to realize we cannot expect to be great or even good at everything. In Corinth, various church members were struggling with envy of others’ gifts, and some with pride in their gifts. It was dividing the community. As you may recall, Paul continued from the passage quoted above into “The Love Chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13 where he wrote,

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

No matter what else we do– or are unable to do–we are to demonstrate love as our way of life. That has implications not only for how we treat others, but how we treat ourselves. I am not loving myself when I condemn or devalue myself for not being “the best” at everything.

The key is exploring the opportunities God brings our way. Try as many things as you can. Takes some risks. Not everything will be a fit; not everything will be life-giving and fruitful. But all those experiences provide valuable information. Over time, we discover our gifts, talents and places where we’re more effective.  Along the way, we’ll have some amazing – and perhaps embarrassing and painful—adventures. But it’s worth it. Just think of the stories you’ll be able to tell.

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