Words by Al Blanton | Image by Ryan McGill
This week, I will add another candle to my birthday cake and celebrate my 46th year on the planet. As a business owner, husband, and father of two small children, I find myself in a very busy stage of life.
Just prior to this milestone, I thought it would be a good idea to add pickup basketball to my roster of weekly activities, so I joined a group of men who play at 5:30 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays at a local church. Never mind that my basketball playing career ended in 1996 and I hadn’t played a pickup game in over a decade. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
My first problem was finding shoes. Considering how old I am, I thought I might have a pair of Chuck Taylors stashed somewhere in the closet. Then I remembered I had an older pair of Jordans I’d been using as street shoes that would suffice until I could get a new pair of Steph Curry’s or some other NBA player I’ve never heard of.
After arriving at the church, I warmed up by lofting a few jumpers at the rim, trying to shed the awkward unfamiliarity of the game I once loved. Indeed, I was slower afoot. My shot was rusty. And the ol’ quadriceps didn’t seem to be working like they used to in the glory days—for sure, there would be no windmill dunks or 360s on this morning. Doubtless I was no Meadowlark Lemon trotting out in his starry, red-white-and-blue togs to enthrall the crowd as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters.
Regardless, I performed fairly well in my first action in years. Clearly, I was out of basketball shape, but I felt like I held my own with guys who had been sharpening their game regularly. I even sunk the game-winning basket on a backdoor cut and cleared a few rebounds off the board—my staple of pride in the halcyon days of my youth.
I thought, you know, with a little practice and a little time to get back in shape I could be a decent player again…
That was the plan.
We played again on Wednesday and the pickup “powers that be” decided to go once more on Friday as well. Wednesday went by without a hiccup, and I felt I was getting back in a groove, but on Friday morning, something totally unexpected happened.
After our team scored, I jogged downcourt and hopped into my defensive stance. As I was trying to negotiate a screen, I felt a pop in the back of my foot and collapsed.
Silence fell on the court as I rolled around on the floor, fearing the worst. Something told me that this wasn’t a simple ankle sprain that I’d experienced in high school—one you could slap a brace on and play through. This was my Achilles.
After a few moments, I was able to stand and was helped off the floor. Trying out my foot, I walked tenderly up and down the sideline, attempting to diagnose the severity of the injury. It soon became clear that I’d played my last basketball of the day, and my fears were soon realized.
By Monday morning, I was at the orthopedic surgeon’s office and by that afternoon, they had shipped me into surgery to repair my torn Achilles.
I awoke around 4:30 p.m. with a bandage wrapped around my left foot like a gordita.
Since that time, I have been relatively immobile and hobbling around on crutches. I showered for the first time in two days. A scooter arrived today that will help me gain some mobility, but my new normal involves “non-weight-bearing activities.” For the foreseeable future, there will be no running, no working out, and no going up and down stairs.
Life, as I had been living it, has become molasses slow.
The truth is, I’m not too sad about it. For the last five or six years, I have been going nonstop—
burning the candle at both ends. I am full throttle from 4 a.m. to about 7:30 p.m every day, and between work, working out, running, hunting, church, family, and friends, I barely slow down for anything.
These last few days have reminded me of the 23rd Psalm, specifically the second verse, where King David writes, “he maketh me lie down in green pastures” (KJV). What beautiful imagery this psalm has always evoked, but through this experience it seemed to take on a richer meaning.
Several years ago, I asked someone who was a more of a Biblical scholar than I, “why do you think it says, ‘he maketh me?” The person replied, “Because there are times we don’t want to.”
I think this injury is God’s way of making me lie down in these pastures. I think this is His way of telling me to slow down. I think He’s saying, “You’re pursuing all these things in life, and I know you think you are going to find fulfillment there and even honor me, but for a moment, pursue me. Rest in me. Lie down and let me give you my rest. Receive my peace. Remain in my love. Bask in my grace. Sit here for an unrushed moment with me and let me show you my goodness and lovingkindness.”
The Lord just wants to spend time with us, but we’ve often got more important things on our plate.
Back in 1992, the group Alabama released a song called “I’m in a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)” that resonates with me now.
I’m in a hurry to get things done,
Oh I, rush and rush until life’s no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why
From the moment we wake up, we are bombarded with notifications, e-mails, messages, and other stimulators that can distract us from our walk with the Lord. In a hustle and bustle world, I think it’s important to carve out some time each day to just be still and be in God’s presence.
To lie in green pastures for just a moment and partake in fellowship with the Creator.
Strange as it may seem, I’m excited about what He’s going to do in this season of motionlessness. I look forward to the ways God is going to minister to me and the people he’s going to bring into my life. I look forward to spending more time with Him.
He maketh me lie down in green pastures. I cannot think of anything lovelier. WL