I Was the Team Joke
As my brother Scott drove me to my first day of high school basketball camp, I cranked up the radio's volume knob until the floorboards shook from the thundering boom of the bass. I was pumped. All summer long I'd been working in my driveway to perfect my ball–handling skills. My jump shot was great, and I was sinking free throws left and right. Wait until my teammates see what I can do! But when we got to school and I stepped inside the gym, I couldn't believe my eyes.
Last year I was the strongest, tallest eighth–grader on the team. But now, I looked like a Chihuahua lost on an NBA court. Everyone towered over me. And these guys hadn't just been growing taller over the summer; they'd also spent time bulking up in the weight room.
"Hey, Casbon!" someone yelled from across the gym. I didn't recognize the guy at first, but when I looked more closely, I realized it was Steve*, one of the puny nerds I used to run over every time I charged down the court for a lay–up. Steve wasn't so puny or nerdy anymore. He had to have grown four inches and gained 30 pounds.
"So, watcha been drinking this summer?" Steve asked with a laugh. "Not much milk, I take it," he smirked as he slapped me hard on the back.
Just two seconds into camp and already a joke about my height. And it didn't stop there.
After a few drills, it was clear that I was no longer the fastest or strongest kid on the team. As my dad would say, I'd had my "day in the sun." Now, it seemed, I was living under a dark cloud—a cloud that hung above the court and wouldn't budge. Even Coach jumped on the browbeating bandwagon, suggesting that my jersey read "Little Cas" rather than "Casbon."
As my brother drove me home from practice, I thought back to the last year when I'd been the athletic stud everybody looked up to. Now I was the one looking up.
That's it, I thought to myself. I'll just quit the team. That way I won't have to worry about getting hassled and teased every day. But I wasn't usually the kind of guy to just quit when things got tough. Besides, I didn't want to drop the one sport I really loved.
That evening as I practiced free throws in my driveway, I thought about something from the Bible I'd studied a few weeks earlier at my church's youth retreat. It was from Luke 9:46-48: "An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and … said to them, 'Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me.… For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest'" (NIV).
As I thought about that verse, I realized I was acting like the disciples. I was all worried about being bigger—and better—than the other guys. But my size didn't matter to Jesus, so I figured it shouldn't matter to me. I loved basketball and I loved the thrill of playing. I decided to try my best to not let all the ribbing get to me.