At first glance, you may think this photograph of my father taken at Gregory Gymnasium is not relevant to the title of this week’s prayer. As an athlete at age 21 at the University of Texas, he was very gifted.
Often, when I view this photo, I wonder what kind of basketball player I would’ve been if I had not gotten polio. How tall might I have been? How fast of foot would I have been? Would my photograph be placed on the wall next to my dad’s at Gregory Gym at UT? My heart aches a little when such thoughts swell within me.
Yet, the lessons I learned from Dad’s example provided so much to me in meeting the challenges of paralysis and polio. Those lessons have helped for the last two years in facing Covid and its mutations. Maybe this prayer about my dad will help you too.
Dad told me how he was able to follow the rules of basketball in college that were not modifiable by him. No matter how much he didn’t like them. Or just how much he wanted to say, “Those rules don’t apply to me.” Although the rules of play were a given, Dad spoke of how he was able to adapt to successfully compete with the other players whose skills, height, weight, speed, aggressiveness, and defensive abilities were barriers to winning games.
Dad told me of two rules which seem impossible today. One was after that every two-point bucket was made, the very next play was a jump ball at center court. The next possession was determined by which team got the jump ball. The other rule for Dad and his teammates to navigate was a requirement from the team’s coach. Only one player on the team was allowed to shoot a shot on each possession. That player was the “designated shooter.” If a player took or even made a shot who was not the designated shooter, that player would find himself getting splinters sitting on the bench or no longer on the team.
Dad was a successful basketball player due to hard work and his God-given talents. He had to strictly adhere to the rules of the game but also had to be able to pivot, change direction, and be flexible.
After UT, Dad experienced many things which required the ability to be flexible. Leaving his 18-year old bride, Lucile, for five years to serve in WWII in Italy. Not being able to come home to be with his wife when their first child was stillborn. After the war, handling damages to his home from floods from White Oak Bayou. Me, his first son, getting polio. Doing the burdensome and unexpected things for me to give me the best chance for recovery and rehabilitation. Dad was in a coma for a month after falling from the roof in 1983. All the rehab to recover mentally and physically from the brain injury.
Thankfully, God gave my dad and gives you and me a quality, part of our true God-given nature—–Flexibility. To bend. To not break. To not be rigid. To not suffer a breakdown in mind, body, spirit.
God’s grace in the gift of flexibility enables us to live fully and love deeply in an ever-changing world. A world made more difficult now with a virus that continuously adapts, changes, and pivots in new directions. Ways which have turned our families, travels, workplaces, homes, church attendance, and social lives upside down. Ways which have divided us.
God has spoken to us in Scripture about flexibility.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
If you can believe, all things are possible to them that believe.
Dear God, please help me to find the qualities You in ensouled in me to be flexible, to change, and to pivot as I navigate the blessed life You have gifted me.
God, sometimes I am so compelled to hold onto my own way of thinking or acting. That my way is the right way. That I refuse to compromise at all. Please help me avoid such rigidity of thinking.
God, please help me to hold on to You while I bend to accept things that cannot be changed and to change those things which are within my power. That in doing so I can harvest the riches and bountiful treasures You place in my path.
God, may I remember each day, that, if I pivot and renew my focus and thoughts on You and Your Kingdom, I can do more than just survive and thrive. I can change the world to be a better place despite whatever challenges I face. Amen
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Jack H. Emmott is a Senior Counsel of Gray, Reed & McGraw, LLP, a 145-lawyer full-service firm in Houston, Dallas, and Waco, Texas, a Board-Certified Family Law and Master Credentialed Collaborative Law Professional Divorce Attorney, Mediator, Author, Entrepreneur, and Inspirational Speaker. For more information about Jack or his latest book, Bending Angels: Living Messengers of God’s Love,” go to the Bending Angel website.