Monday, October 13, 2014

Two Words Jeter Was Never Allowed To Say...

Knowing we had a hard work out scheduled for cross country practice that afternoon, I shimmied up to a group of about 3o of my runners and said with great enthusiasm: "Girls! Imagine a world where everyone said "I can't!!" They looked at me as though that would be horrible. They should have.

I can't tell you how many punch lines I have completely botched when telling a joke. Or sometimes I get so excited while telling a story that I ruin the details. I say things like "Eminem is from 10-mile" with complete sincerity (it's 8-mile). I wish I could say it's a creative way I get people's attention but really, it's just a quirky part of my humanity. And in this case, what I meant to say is "Imagine a world where NO ONE said I can't." I fumbled this life lesson because I was so inspired by the great Derek Jeter whose final game in 20 years of MLB took place this September. 
Raised right by his parents Dot and Charles
In Tom Verducci's article "Exit Center Stage," I learned that Jeter's parents "never permitted Derek to use the word "can't" around the house. Anything was possible with hard work. There is no doubting whence comes his distaste for negativity." If Jeter could think that way, couldn't my runners think in a similar vein? Even if just for 2.5 hours?

As a teacher, a coach and a Christian, I believe it's my duty to give people hope. I think it's important to "find a way" when life is challenging. Removing the words "I can't" from our vocabulary is no easy task, but I think it's worth considering. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is "with God all things are possible." On my best days, I know this is true. Other days...not so much. 

Part of me, can't believe the BoSox did this. (Can't intended)
In reflecting on Jeter's example, I realized I say "I can't" literally and metaphorically quite a bit. The first place I noticed it will come of little surprise to those who play golf. Indeed, the golf course is a breeding ground for said words of contempt, but I soon realized there are many others.

Just one hour after XC practice, I played a quick round of nine holes. To my delight, I maintained solid contact on one one shot after another. That is always a moral victory. In fact, I hit the ball so well on one hole, I didn't mind that it landed in the bunker. 

I descended into the sand with a spring in my step and approached the ball with no fear. It was a hard shot, but I was feeling great. I swung my sand wedge and found my ball back where it started. A tough lip, it didn't clear the edge. I took another swing. Still in. I reviewed my stance, I looked at the open face and I said it, "I can't!" I thought about the fact that my next 8 shots might be from this very place and I said "I can't!" again, this time out loud. 

Sometimes life feels like one big...
I couldn't believe it. The very words I had preached against were mine. And even worse, I believed them.

I caught myself. I took a deep breath and stepped back from where I was. I looked at the open sky and loosened up and told myself to refocus. I hit the ball 2 inches behind it and got it out and onto the green. Great shot.

The literal and metaphorical symbolism astounded me. How often are we caught in a spiritual sand trap? How many times do we try and try again to get out? We feel as though we never will. Why don't we realize the words "I can't" are of little help. How can we change our thinking? What is it that gets us out? 

Indeed, the spiritual sand trap is very real. There are so many things which tempt us to say "I can't." Perhaps you can't accept God's mercy. Maybe you can't continue to pray for someone. Recently, I've thought "I can't forgive this person..." I know this because I have wanted Serena Williams' words to be my own. 

Serena. I get it.
In the 2012 US Open, she was so frustrated by calls from the line judge that she lost it. In a fit of anger, she said: "If you ever see me walking down the hall, walk the other way." Forgiving someone means I'm able to walk down the same hall and look them in the eye. Right now, that seems impossible. With God, however, all things are possible.

What I've come to believe is that if we want to get out of the sand trap, we can't say "I can't." (In one case using "can't" is ok here!) We have to look up to God. We have to take in a breath and regroup. 

Building the Kingdom of God here and now isn't easy...but I'm certain it requires the optimism Jeter was raised with. It's something we can do, little by little and day by day. Let every "can't" become a "can." Can I get an "Amen?"

Photo Credits
Jeter Family

Fenway Honors Jeter

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