“His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of a man;. . .” Psalm 147
The athlete in me is well into the fourth quarter, clock ticking down. The game has slowed dramatically. Rarely, do we miss a day at the gym. Once the last tomatoes are out, we get our exercise inside, sadly—or else walk outside somewhere, if the wind isn’t brutal, which, these days, it often is.
Inside, I get on a couple of machines and work up a heavy sweat, the blessed livery of a gym rat at any age. I lift weights, even though “buff” is a pipe dream. Basically, that’s what’s left for an aging four-sport jock, once the high school’s “Athlete of the Year.” Years ago, I lost the gold cuff-links that came with that great honor.
Years ago, I met a nice, young kid, a senior in high school, who expressed an interest in majoring in English when he gets to college next year. He was thinking about enrolling at the college where I taught, and my job was to sweet talk. Turned out his passion was basketball—that’s what he told me. English was okay for a major, but history or math would do the job too, he told me. What he really wanted was to coach.
Could have been me a half century ago.
Great kid, sweet kid—I’d love to have him enroll, whether or not he ever pulls on a jersey or majors in English. His passion is basketball, he says, eyes ablaze.
He wanted to play ball in college, but he knew making the team would no cakewalk. He told me a hot shot from his small, Indiana high school came here a few years ago and didn’t even make the team—so he said he was prepared. He didn’t.
I told him I’d seen guys emotionally hamstrung when suddenly they didn’t have to turn up for practice every afternoon of their lives, ex-jocks who said they felt as if bright lights had gone out of their lives without the steady rhythms of after-school practices. I went through that myself—delirium tantrums from lugging no more gym bags. For thousands of kids every year, not making the team means losing some valuable component of identity.
He said he knew all of that. He said he thought he was prepared.
But wow! —does he want to play. Basketball, he told me a half dozen times, is his passion.
Verse ten of Psalm 147 is a gift for highly-juiced jocks, a reminder to a million wannabee all-stars that there’s more to life than being MVP. Much more. I tried to tell him as much, but some lessons get learned only by experience.
That morning, when I left the gym myself, I spotted a lanky grade-school kid shooting free throws. When he went after the ball, his long legs arched a bit like a pair of fine parenthesis, the sure sign of speed and wholesale athletic gifts.
But God doesn’t care. The psalmist says He takes no delight in the legs of man, whether or not they’re as sharply defined as a thoroughbred’s.
That’s good to hear, especially when my knees sometimes feel like a nest of hooks. Neither the size of our engines nor the thrust of our calves means anything at all. We’re loved, even when we’ve no more horsepower than a VW bus.
Met a kid once who told me basketball was his passion. Someday, like all of us, this little verse will bring him comfort, as it does me, an old man who long ago lost his prized cufflinks.
It’s good to be reminded—at 18 or 71—that God doesn’t much care about all of that. Some people might, but he doesn’t. Bless his holy name.