On Finishing Well (Part One)

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I am in the last half of my life. And that’s okay with me. What I see when I look into the mirror is a man who has lived a good life, lost some hair, gained some lb’s (no ugly comments from the peanut gallery!), acquired a couple laugh lines, and flecks of gray. And I see something else for which I give God the praise for allowing me this grace: a determination to finish well.

February 1978.

It was the final game of my high school basketball ‘career’. We were playing a patsy and were simply going through the motions, having been bounced from the playoffs by two points in the previous game. We were heartsick and bored, and coach was emptying the bench to make sure everyone had enough P.T. as the season drew to a melancholy end. Only I was kept in all four quarters, and the reason was, although captain of the team and averaging close to double digits, I had not scored 20 points in any game all year long. Coach wanted to address this. So he kept me in.

I started the game hot. Nearly everything I threw in the direction of the backboard went in. Some amazing shots, believe me. By halftime, twenty points was well within reach but something happened in the dressing room at intermission. Coach said, “we’re gonna leave Scott in so he can get his twenty, but that shouldn’t be too long.” He said this to enliven the hopes of my backup forwards who had not yet seen any action but when the curtain opened on the second half, I went ice cold. I couldn’t hit the sky if I had aimed for it! No points in the third quarter; still only a couple buckets shy of the golden mark. Looking over at the bench, my backups were looking glum.

Coach was looking at me, hands on hips, as if to say, enough already. He instructed the other four on the floor to feed me the ball every time down court, no matter where I was. Short jumpers were just short, layups were rattling out, long range bombs scraped air. Nothing was working. The crowd, by this time, knew the playbook and every time my hands touched leather, the fans’ roar was deafening. I think by this time, the other team knew the playbook too because it seemed they gave me a wide berth. Hit it if you can…

Finally, two minutes left in the final stanza of my high school basketball experience, and I was fed the ball in the middle of the lane; I fumbled it but somehow regained control and flipped it immediately upward fearing the whole while for a traveling whistle that never came (I think even the refs knew the playbook by this time!). The ball circled the rim and…fell in. Everyone exploded as points nineteen and twenty went in the books—finally—and I was mugged by teammates there under the hoop, and even given some back slaps by the opposing team. The only one not sharing in the glee was the third stringer who was left with only 90 seconds or so to make good.

That’s my story. Fortunately, with a little help from my friends, I finished well. But a larger story was unfolding in my life including college, temptation, trials, paralysis and ministry. I still fumble the ball at times and hit back iron now and again, but I have others in my life who give a wide berth, “feed me the ball,” cheer me on and a Coach who leaves me in the game.

All of it is designed to make sure I finish well. I want to do that more than anything…

(continued in next post) 

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