The Kid Stretches Me – Guest Post by Tom Tarver

Today, A Curious Band Of Others visits The Stretched Blog.  I’m honored to present guest blogger Tom Tarver.  Tom writes about the daily struggles to hear and to do—the building on the rock foundation process—to those who dream bigger dreams about being the church, the body of Christ in motion.  After you read his post below, swing over to his blog and check things out.  Add A Curious Band Of Others to your regular reading.

(If you have a STRETCHED story to share, drop me a comment so we can connect.)

My young friend Richard looked like he’d finished an Ironman Triathlon—face buried in his arms, legs like jelly. There would be no more basketball for him today.

“The first day is always the hardest,” I said. “You’ll feel better after a few days.” I hoped he’d show up again but had my doubts.

Between gasps, he said, “I haven’t played basketball in three years.”

I headed back out to the court for the next game and figured I’d had my last conversation with Richard for the day, perhaps even for the week. Shoot, maybe even the year.

I was wrong on all accounts. Richard trotted out for the morning’s last game. In the final moments, he lunged to save an escaping basketball and tipped it in my direction. I turned and swooshed the game winner.

Richard surpassed all my expectations because I underestimated him in a big way. I shouldn’t by now; because he made a number of exceptional plays on the football team I coached and hustled his heart out on our softball team.

He doesn’t look the part of an athlete—he’s whippet thin but tortoise slow. When players ran routes in full pads, I could distinguish Richard from the other skinny receivers by his foot speed. Forget a stopwatch. You need to clock Richard with a calendar.

But here’s the thing about Richard. He sticks to it (whatever it is—football, softball, basketball, etc.). And I admire him for his resolve. He just doesn’t quit. I’ve seen better, more talented athletes who would be exceptional if they had Richard’s heart.

Richard’s friendship serves to remind me of the prophet Samuel’s visit to Jesse’s home. He came looking to anoint a king and based his initial judgment on appearances. God had another standard.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Jesus also spoke about appearances. In John 5, we read about Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath. In John 7, He’s confronted by the Jewish religious leaders. He knows they want to kill Him, have wanted to ever since the Sabbath-day healing, and will kill Him in due time. In that context, Jesus says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly” (John 7:24 NIV).

So here are a few takeaway thoughts that stretch me.

1) Value people. Jesus valued people above rules and regulations. He knew the Law was important. In truth, the Law flowed out of God’s character. But why? Because God loves and values people.

2) Go deeper. You know the saying. “Beauty is only skin deep.” I can see skin deep with my physical eyes, but I can’t see any further than that. Everything I take in visually—what he wears, how she fixes her hair, his height, her complexion, etc.—is mere appearance. Hollywood has built a successful industry primarily on eye appeal. But for us, living in obedience to the Lord, we must go deeper than the skin.

3) Gaze upon the heart. How many times have you assigned a motive to another person because he angered you? How many times have you stopped a conversation with “That’s stupid” or something worse? Whether I’ve said it or not, I’ve certainly thought it. To get to the heart of a person or a matter, I have to slow down and think. For me, that means gaze instead of glimpse.

What’s true for me in relation to Richard remains true for me in my relationship with God. I must go deeper than my circumstances, whether good or bad, to know God’s heart. I must gaze upon Him in Scripture, in worship, and in life to understand the depth of His love for me. Even then, I may only get a glimpse of His glory. But, with God, a glimpse is more than I deserve and more than enough.

Questions: What kind of person does God use to stretch you?