Have you ever felt really confident about your ability to do something, only to find yourself unable to do said thing under pressure and be humiliated as a result? One event from my childhood sticks out in my mind as I ponder this subject.
When I was in 7th grade, my parents sent me to a private Christian school (ugh…long story). It was a small school, but wanting to provide opportunities for sports participation they formed a basketball team and joined the circuit of other private schools who played each other. As I said, ours was a small school and among the young lads who were thrown into this situation, I found myself to be one of the tallest of my peers. We had been playing basketball during lunch break and I had started fancying myself as a decent player…A contender with height and skills to be a star for our burgeoning team. When our uniforms came I wore my jersey over my t-shirt just so everyone would know that I was a basketball player. I talked loudly about our new basketball team to the neighbor kids, speculating on how our team was going to own the other teams and imagining myself being carried off the court by my fellow players because it was my three point shot which clinched our spectacular win.
At our very first game, when I arrived at the gymnasium it was held in, I had no idea how nervous I could really be. I felt cold and immediately self-conscious in front of all the strangers that were there to watch the game. I started trembling (I assumed from the cold) and my hands started sweating. Our coach told us to take the court and start warming up. We formed up in lines to do lay ups. My hands were getting more and more sweaty, and my teeth started chattering – and suddenly, the ball was thrown to me and it was my turn for a lay-up. I can still see it all in slow motion. I dribbled the ball as I ran toward the basket – took one step and started to launch and lift the ball toward the backboard – that’s when I noticed that the other team had cheerleaders who were practicing behind the basket on our side of the court, and they were watching me.
I wish I could tell you that I performed the most graceful and stunning lay-up in the history of lay-ups, and that the cheerleaders swooned at the sheer magnificence of my athleticism.
Did I mention that my hands were sweaty?
Just as I began to lift the ball toward the backboard and launched off my left foot – the ball slipped off my moist palm and shot straight into the huddled squad of cheerleaders, who screamed and scattered like swans being shot at by a drunken hunter. The confusion of losing the ball so suddenly caused me to stumble off my hop and I came down hard on my ankle and I fell as a tumbling mass of humiliated, pre-teen angst. I got up quickly and laughed and tried to shake it off, but I had twisted my ankle and was having trouble putting weight on my foot. From a lay-up. During warm ups. In front of Catholic cheerleaders and everybody. I’ve since come to realize that I have zero skills at basketball, and take my rightful place in front of the TV to watch other people play.
That’s sort of like our story in the Gospel of Luke this Sunday. Sort of. We’ll be reading Luke 22:54-62, the account of Peter denying Christ.
Why do you think Peter denied Jesus, and do you relate to that at all? Have you ever felt like you’ve denied what you know about him, or denied his plans for your life?
How do you react to falling down like that? What do you do? As you think about Peter’s story later on, what do you think Peter did with this failure – and what can we learn from that?
That’s what we’ll be exploring this Sunday – and what the small groups will be discussing this coming week. If you’re a small group leader, here is the study guide for this week: leaders guide 22-54-62