I was 16. It was the end of a hard week and the results of the basketball tryouts had just been posted. As I walked up to look at the list (the bottom of the list, of course. I knew I wouldn’t be toward the top where the girls with real talent, or height, or both, would obviously be. If my name was there, it would be toward the bottom in one of the “we’re taking a chance on you so don’t mess it up” positions), I knew this likely wasn’t going to end well. I was right.
As I turned to leave, I ran into the coach. To this day, my timing is still impeccable. He consoled me with a few words of apology and regret and then he said something that has stuck with me for longer than I should probably admit:
“If only I could put your heart in some of my other players’ bodies. . .”
Wait. Stop. “If only I could put your heart in some of my other players’ bodies. . .” Then what? Then you’d have some super-human athlete that could take over the world? Then we wouldn’t have to have this gritty hallway conversation? Then what?
We proceeded to chat for what seemed like an awkward eternity and then he asked me to be the team manager. I guess that’s what heart gets you – the chance to fill water bottles and the ever elusive opportunity to do extra math by running statistics and keeping the books. Ah, heart. So I did what any self-respecting girl at that age would do: I said “sounds good”, and left to cry in my car.
“If only I could put your heart in some of my other players’ bodies. . .” If only he knew how many times at the ripe old age of 16 I had already started conversations with myself starting with, “If only. . .”. Maybe then things would be different.
Not long after that experience, I came across a passage of scripture that struck me. Again, timing. I’d like to say that it struck some spiritual bone that ignited my desire to do right and serve others but that isn’t exactly what happened.
In the bible we are taught that the “Lord looketh upon the heart,” and the first thing that I remember crossing my mind was, “Yeah, but if he could put that heart in someone else’s body. . .” Isn’t it nice to know that my sarcasm is no respecter of boundaries, biblical or not?
I used to read that passage of scripture over and over and be so grateful for it, like it was a quiver put in the good book that awkward/chubby/uncoordinated folks could pull from our arsenal and fire at beautiful people at any given moment. “Oh yeah, well the Lord looketh upon the heart! So take that, you perfect-haired, always asked to Prom, smart girl! Take that. I have heart.”
You’ll be glad to know that as I’ve gotten older and continued to ponder this doctrine, I’ve realized that my original interpretation of it was slightly left of where it should be. This reminder that the Lord looketh upon the heart is in no way a dig at people who seem to have it all together on the outside, despite my younger hopes that this was the case. It is so much more than that.
The Lord looketh upon our hearts to see how we handle all of the “If onlys” that are thrown our way. He watches to see how we handle life when things don’t work out the way we planned. He looks for us to turn to Him. The Lord looketh upon the heart to see how it changes, how it grows, how it reacts to difficulties and struggle.
The Lord looketh upon the heart because that is the place where character is formed – where we develop the resolve to press forward, despite our insecurities and our worries.
The Lord looketh upon the heart because it’s the only way to see true, heaven-inspired change. It is the one part of our physical bodies that He can reside in, tug at, and push to new limits. The heart.
“If only. . .” It’s a statement that I think resonates with everyone at some time or another. “If only I were more beautiful. . .”; “If only I had gotten that job. . .”; “If only I knew that God heard my prayers. . .”; “If only I knew that He loved me. . .” The Lord looketh upon the heart to witness how we overcome these issues and remind us where we can turn for peace.
It would have been really easy all those years ago to become bitter about what seemed to be my whole world (basketball) and my inability to play for a team that I loved. I could have said “no” to the request to manage the team and could have faded into the crowd of “If onlys” that plague us all throughout our lives. But I’m so grateful to this day that I didn’t.
Why? Well it turns out that sports math isn’t so bad. I actually kind of like it. (And by ‘kind of’, I mean I really, really liked keeping the books. Like really. But don’t tell anyone because it makes me sound nerdier than I want to.) Also, despite not being on the court (my plan), I was able to meet and still remain friends with some of the most amazing women that, to this day, encourage me to press forward and accomplish great things (God’s plan). For that I will be forever grateful.
This experience changed me. I was devastated when my name wasn’t on that list. I was devastated when it seemed like heart counted for nothing but some extra work and equipment management. But as I look back, I realize that that chance hallway conversation was just the beginning.
The Lord looketh upon the heart. He does this while we do hard things. He holds it, He protects it, He keeps it by His side and guides it to grow.
“If only I could put your heart in some of my players’ bodies. . .” At the time, I wished he could have. But every day since, I’m ever grateful that He didn’t. My heart is all I have to give. And to the Lord, it will always be enough.