Years ago I taught at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh, NC. At that time the school had some great basketball teams. I figured if I was going to relate to my students, I’d better brush up on the game of basketball So I asked one of my students to recommend a good book on basketball. He did better than that. He loaned me one of his. I don’t remember everything I read in that book, but I do remember the first chapter entitled, “Stance.”
The book pointed out that stance was crucial to basketball. Before you even touched a basketball or thought about dribbling and shooting, you had to practice your stance. The proper stance, said the book, increases your chances of being a good player. The book described various elements of the stance—how to position your
feet on the floor, bend your knees and hips, hold your arms, hands, shoulders, and head. Then it illustrated stance with a few pictures. Through practice your stance becomes so automatic, you hardly have to think about it anymore, and you can concentrate on the finer aspects of the game. I verified all these facts with my 15-year-old grandnephew, Cameron, who’s a very good basketball player. He added, that when he first learned to play the game, the coach was always yelling, “Butts down, backs straight, hands up!”
This information made me wonder: As Christians, do we have a unique stance in the world? Do we have a particular way of standing, holding ourselves, and moving in the “game” called life? I think we do. After a little reflecting, I came up with these five components of our Christian stance. There are probably more.
1) Prayer. Our Christian stance is rooted in our personal relationship with God. This means we consciously spend time with God on a regular basis. We think about God, we talk to Jesus, we ask the Spirit for help. We also listen to detect God’s presence and direction in our lives. God is very real to us, even though many times we have to accept God’s “realness” more on faith than on tangible feelings.
2) Reflection. We Christians don’t just live life. We also reflect on life. This means we pay attention to what’s happening in our life, our work, our relationships. We periodically pause and appraise our thinking, our attitude, our actions. We reflect also on the larger community—our neighborhood, parish, city, country, world. We nourish our reflection with input from family, friends, books, homilies, (and even blogs!)
3) Community and altruism. The Christian stance is essentially communal and altruistic. Jesus brought people together. He also repeatedly challenged his followers to love one another. We Christians do not live isolated lives. We believe our lives are deeply intertwined with the rest of the human family—as well as with the animals, plants, and natural resources of the entire earth community. We also believe we are called to be attentive to others—especially those in need. That’s why headlines move us, stories engage us, and people who are hurting stir us to action.
4) Hope. We Christians are people of hope. Simply put, we believe a better world is possible. Though we do not deny or gloss over the very
real evils and injustices in our world, we believe in the ultimate triumph of good over evil, love over hate, life over death. Jesus promised us this—by his life and teachings. What’s more, our hope is not passive. We are actively partnering with God to bring about that better world in our homes, workplaces, parishes, neighborhoods, and wherever God calls us to be.
5) Joy. And lastly, our Christian stance is joyful. A scowling, cynical Christian is an oxymoron. This doesn’t mean we Christians have to be grinning all the time. No. But it does mean even when we experience life’s sadness and sorrow, we still maintain that “joy is the underlying pulsation of our life.” (G.K. Chesterton) We have staked our claim on Jesus who suffered cruelly out of love for us on Good Friday, AND who rose from the dead in glory on Easter Sunday.
If we are struggling with our faith or even our life, then maybe we have to identify a component of our stance that needs “practice.” Hopefully in time our Christian stance becomes second nature to us, and we are able “to play the game of life” with greater meaning, strength, effectiveness, and joy!
What do you think of these five components?
Are there other components you would add?
PS: Many of you said how much your enjoyed “The Piano Guys” last week. I forgot to mention that the men are all Mormons. They are all husbands and dads too.