Bench Warmer

Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I am back in time on my
high school basketball court.  I can hear
the crowd bellowing, particularly the student section that’s right beneath our
basket; I can see my friend, wearing his “Hot-shooter 32, I heart Kate”
t-shirt; I can smell the wet socks when our point guard Danielle gets
hurt and has to take off her shoes to get her ankle wrapped, again; I can taste
the salty sweat that drips down my forehead during a free throw; I can feel the
high fives and butt slaps as the throttle of competition rises  within me. 
It’s a different world.  For two
hours of my life, everything disappears and nothing matters except putting that
“brown thing in the round thing,” as our team once quoted.  We take our place on the battlefield, the
enemies in their rival maroon and yellow, daring to take their stand against
our white and blood red school colors. 
It’s not “just a game,” as my mom would say to me after a loss, and I
would respond (in immature teenage fashion) by slamming my bedroom door to shut
myself away for the night.  Just a game? No, this is war.  The real enemy isn’t the opposing team, the
real battle isn’t the scoreboard.   The
battle is to make them proud, the enemy is the war of emotions within me.  I have to learn to tame the beast, to learn
through defeat. 

In times like these, now ten years later, I am thankful
for those moments, those memories that still teach me so much.  As the saying goes, it’s not about how many
times we fail but how many times we got back on that battlefield.  Even if we shouldn’t.  In basketball, I hated the bench; I hated
rest.  There was no rest during a game,
no relaxing during battle.  I would
endure the rest only when Coach forced me to come off the court, but never of
my own choice.  What a shame it would be
if I gave up.  At least that’s how I saw
it then.  Weaknesses must be mastered,
and the court was the perfect place to do that—to learn how to battle my
emotions, fix myself, and get stronger, better. 
Who has the desire to rest when glory is on the horizon?
I laugh now at myself.  I laugh looking back at my life in general
and see how much of a Martha I really am—always doing, never resting.  Even in college, I hated naps (I still do),
because it felt like a waste of time (that and I never liked the way I felt
when I finally woke up).  But there comes
a point when a limit is a real limit.  We
get taught in sports to push and go beyond. 
In cross country, I learned how to beat my body into submission to my
mind’s will to keep going, keep running, don’t give up.  But there is always a limit.  The thing about rest is that rest can help us
to stretch our limits, to prevent us from breaking along the way.  And then again, sometimes breaks are the best
medicine for us.
This life I live now has been non-stop for the past year
and a half. The ministry has consumed me. 
I’m on the basketball battlefield and refuse to get off.  Only when Coach pulls me out do I realize how
much I desperately need rest.  And oh,
Lord, you know.  No matter what pep talks
I give myself, He knows…He knows how much I desperately need that bench.
For lack of ability to explain in detail what has been
happening the past few months, I simply confess God is putting me on the bench
for a while.  And somehow, I’m
relieved.  Starting in January, my life
will be drastically different, though I’m not sure how.  I have no idea what it will look like, except
that I will no longer be the house mother for my fifteen girls.  (I will still be serving them but I will be finding my own place to live.)  As a ministry, we are separating from our
partner ministry MYC that owns the home and has opted to keep running the home
and keep all the girls.  From an
organizational standpoint and with the decree of social welfare system, we must
submit and let MYC take over in order to grow our own organization.  When I prayed and prayed about what do to,
God kept reminding me, “The Lord your God will fight for you, you need only be
still” (Ex 14:14).  Yes, “Be still and
know that I am God” (Ps 46:10).  God made
two things clear to me: 1) our ministry has become so thin because we are
trying to cover too much.  We have the
girls home, Mangwaneni ministry, street nights, and the workshop; all supposed
to be run by just one full-time staff (me) and our year-long volunteers?  As Rachel put it, “We don’t want to be a mile
wide and only an inch deep.”  Because the
needs are SO tremendously great here, it is difficult NOT to try to help.  But we have definitely been spread thin.  So, as a ministry, it is clear that it’s time
to pull back, call a timeout, re-strategize, and reconnect with God’s intent
for who to help and how.  As the
executive director, this actually thrills me. 
I’m so excited to see where God will take us because there are SO many
different options and directions!  I know
He will grow us tremendously to be a mile deep and a mile wide.  But as just me, Kate, the mother figure in
these kids’ lives, well, that’s a different story—one I’ve been avoiding
dealing with at the current moment, because it just may destroy me.  2) I need to find me.  I have never faced such a battle as I have
the last four months.  I thought things
would get easier, but the battles have increased.  Face to face with demons, praying endlessly
for the freedom of some of my girls, frustrated and confused, empty and
bitter.  Angry.  Angry that I can’t be the mom I’m supposed to
be (I didn’t realize how motherhood could bring out the worst in us!) or the
friend I want to be or the director I need to be. Angry that I keep shooting
but the ball won’t go in the basket. 
In a couple weeks I will be going home for the month of
December.  It’s my extended timeout.  Time to catch my breath and get Kate
back.  Somewhere along the way, I feel
I’ve lost her.  Surrounded by so much
heartache and disappointment 24/7, she couldn’t survive like I thought she
could.  I can do it, I said.  I’m fine, I said.  It will
I said.  Yet, now I see how
pride is so sneaky.  Pride has put a veil
over my eyes.  Pride has prevented me
from keeping Kate.  So I’m letting go of
pride.  I’m admitting personal defeat by
clinging to spiritual victory.  For, He
who is in me is greater than he who is in the world.  “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient
for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” (2 Cor 12:9)
For the first time in my life, I think I’m really looking
forward to that bench.  During my prayer
time the other week, I asked God what He wanted from me, what I was supposed to
do this next year.  His response: “Come
and enjoy life with me.”  I don’t know
what that means, but I know I’m going to love being a bench-warmer.   

“Therefore that I might not become
too elated, a thorn in my flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me,
to keep me from being too elated.  Three
times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in
weakness.”  I will rather boast most
gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with
me.  Therefore, I am content with
weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of
Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 
-2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Recent Comments

  • Peg Martin

    Friday, 13 Nov, 2015

    Bawling right now!!! My heart is joined to yours, because you are my child and because I can relate to all you have said.Thank you for allowing God to use you to teach us. God is working on in your life more than you know. He is continually working on my pride as well. We All suffer with the sin of Pride and until we acknowlege that fact and allow God to let His Mercy flow through us, we will never change and become the Children He intends us to be. Love you Kate Thank you


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