I played basketball in Junior high school, many, many years ago. I didn’t play in high school mostly because I didn’t want to be labeled a “jock” through these formative years, though as it turns out I was labeled “brain” which might have been worse. Another story…another time…
I was always freakishly tall compared to the other girls, though thankfully not terribly clumsy on my feet, so, by default, I was the better of two centers and started and played most all games. I was thinking about the times I had to sit the bench. Either I had fouled out, or was exhausted, had lost my hustle and needed rest, or God forbid, I was playing poorly. In my junior high school mind, sitting the bench for any reason was almost unbearable. It was like a sign of failure and defeat. Even in exhaustion, those who were sequestered to the bench knew the stigma associated with being a proverbial benchwarmer.
Even in my immaturity, from the bench, I could see the team’s weaknesses clearly. I could see, as our coach did, when someone wasn’t “covering their man”. I could see when the ‘hustle’ wasn’t there. I could see all of this, yet I was totally disabled from doing anything about it. Talk about frustrating. If ONLY I could get back in the game. If only I could get some play time. If only… The coach looks from the perspective of the whole team, in weakness and strength. The coach must rise above 'self' desire and need, and look to the big picture, the ultimate end, not just a sequence of moments, but the final outcome.
I’m thinking now about how often we spend our time ‘on the bench’ of life, not engaging in life, not PLAYING in life. I know sometimes we bench ourselves for reasons unknown to anyone but us…and God. As art imitates life, so does bench warming. When we willingly disengage from life and ‘bench’ ourselves, I believe sometimes it’s a self-defense kicking in for fear of rejection or failure.
In what I poetically call my “observant” years, I spent so much time on the “bench”, claiming it for growth and wisdom that I was almost incapacitated when it came time to “get in the game”. I’d have strong reactions to what I was seeing, yet I wouldn’t get back in the “game”. I felt powerless and insignificant in my own life experience. It was as though life was happened TO me. I couldn't HEAR the coach, because I wasn't even IN the game, I was on the sidelines.
I heard a pastor preach once about getting in the ‘game’ and how God desired us to get in the game and play fully. I think he forgot that the time of the bench can be healing time. I think he forgot that even in times we spend on the bench, we are still very much a part of the TEAM. From the bench I saw with a new perspective what I can and MUST do when I’m back “in the game”.
I also know sometimes GOD calls us to the “bench” to refresh, renew, protect, and prepare both a defense and an offense for our game. We’ve all spent time contemplating life and our next move and sometimes the best place to do this is from the ‘bench’ where we slow down and WATCH and LISTEN to the ultimate “Coach” about our next “play”. In times I am NOW called to the bench, I try to remember my "Coach" can see from a "team" perspective what I can only see from MY perspective. I pray that I would use my time on the bench for His purpose, not mine and that my time there would be rewarded with a fresh perspective and energy to be a part of the team of God.