March is Madness

Rod Dunlap

Last Thursday was the day on the calendar where the most people call in sick to work or leave early. It was also the beginning of the NCAA basketball tournament. Many years ago, I was one of those people that did not work or go to school on this day. This day for me was the beginning of a crazy three week period of hanging out with friends, watching games, and staying up until 1am some nights to see who won the games that didn’t start until 10:30pm. I’d have my bracket in front of me, usually crossing out teams as they lost because I don’t think I’ve ever won a bracket competition that I’ve entered. And I know that there are many others out there that love to dive into what is known as March Madness. People love their schools and want them to win it all. And others just like to fill out their brackets in hopes of winning the office pool. Needless to say, most of America is tuned in during these three weeks to see what team can win six straight games to be crowned the basketball champion.

But the past few years have been a bit different for me when watching these games. I’ve began to reflect on how this “madness” ties into our spiritual journey as Christians. One of the things that make this basketball tournament so exciting is the idea that when a team begins the tournament, they don’t know where these three weeks will take them. They know who they play first, and that is it. So this is very unlike their regular season where they know all of their opponents for the entire year ahead of time. But in the tournament, most things become an unknown. And what this does to the players is force them to trust and rely on their strengths and abilities, regardless of who they play next. And for the coaches, they are forced to adjust on the fly because they do know or have much time to prepare for their next opponent. Or the team might lose and be sent home to deal with that until next basketball season. And each of these options are ones that we as Christians face all the time in our lives. We look at our lives and what lies ahead, and it usually an unknown. We are not sure many times where we are heading or what the Lord is asking from us. But like the players in this tournament, we must learn to trust in the graces that we have been given as well as the specific gifts and talents that God has blessed us with. And the lesson we can learn from the coaches is having to adjust as we go forward. We aren’t sure of what is coming next, but that the Lord is asking us to just take that next step and make changes when necessary. I can recall a few years back being stuck between decisions and not knowing which path to take. And I just froze. Eventually, through prayer, I felt the Lord tell me that I just have to keep moving. That he can’t help me if I just sit there but if I am moving in some direction, even if it’s the wrong direction, he can move me in the right direction. And I think that these coaches and players just have to keep moving and trust. Because if they don’t, their other option is to lose, go home, and think back on all the things they could have done differently to come out as the winner. And as a Christian, that is a position that I never want to put myself in. So I choose to keep moving and trust.