You know how teenage boys are. You say “You need a haircut,” and they say “Aw, Mom.” You say “Those pants are getting raggedy,” and they say “No, they’re fine.”
But when my son Cason started playing high school basketball for the late Coach Will Collins (Bellefontaine, OH), I witnessed a phenomenon. Now, Coach Collins was a bit of a legend (and attained his 500th win during my son’s senior year). Coach had expectations.
One day not long after Cason joined the team, he came home and said, “I need money for a haircut.” I surveyed the back of his neck and said, “I think you’re good for a while longer.” But he stuck out his hand for money and said, “Coach doesn’t want us to look shaggy.” Another time he wanted money for new pants: “Coach wants us to dress up on Saturday.” I protested that his old pants were still good enough, but it wouldn’t do.
I was absolutely astonished. I instead of the typical teenage complaining about “stupid rules,” my son was eager to obey. He seemed proud to do whatever Coach wanted.
Coach Collins didn’t like the boys to dunk; he didn’t want them looking for ways to show off. Dunking was absolutely forbidden during pregame warm-ups. And though players were allowed to dunk during a game, Coach preferred that they didn’t. Sometimes the guys dunked. But another scene presented itself over and over during games: A player would be sailing toward the basket in perfect position to dunk. But then at the last possible second, he’d ease back and just let the ball fall in without doing the slam. The crowd would let out a collective “Awwwwwww!”—wishing they’d seen a dunk. These moments brought tears to my eyes. I felt as if the boys were saying, “See, Coach, I could’ve dunked it. But out of respect for your preference, I didn’t.”
When I hear people complaining that Christianity is “just a bunch of rules” or even saying that our relationship with God doesn’t involve rules at all but is just about “peace and love,” I recall my son’s days with Coach Collins. If only we could realize that the Lord is Somebody. He knows what to do to win. He’s legendary! Maybe we would stand tall and proudly say “The Lord wants this” and “The Lord doesn’t want that.” If we loved and respected him enough, maybe we’d want to do not only what he commands but also what he prefers.
The psalmist loved and respected his Coach: “Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight . . . . I delight in your commands because I love them. I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love . . . . I have put my hope in your word” (Psalm 119:35, 47, 48, 74).