We Don’t Want You!

  • Randy Karlberg
Coach watching basketball

If you know the Karlberg family at all, it will not come as a surprise to you that we have a little disease that has penetrated most of our family.  This disease is called Basketball.  Now our daughter Hannah has her own thoughts on this disease, but for most of the Karlberg’s this particular disease is not one of dread, but rather somewhere on the scale of tolerance to full-on commitment.  There is plenty of evidence that we as a family have an overindulgence in basketball.  And I understand that analysis.  What I want to make known is that we have had the conversation many times amongst family members that “basketball” does not define who you are!  And this conversation has been brought back up several times when there is difficulty on the court or even off the court.  The fact that I am not a basketball player, but rather a child of the King of Kings who loves to play basketball is paramount to one’s entire life!  But what you may not be aware of is how this lesson was initially learned. 

Growing up I played basketball from 4th grade through high school.  I enjoyed learning and growing in this sport.  I was fairly well-rounded growing up and had many interests.  But I did love playing basketball and wanted to play in college.  I went to a small Division III school in Minnesota and was able to play basketball there.  I was on the Junior Varsity team as a freshman and had a wonderful time.  My JV coach had and still has a lasting impact on my life.  In my sophomore year, I made the varsity team and enjoyed my season, even though I had plenty of time to think as a substitute player that spent each game with a front-row seat.  I was looking forward to being on the team my Junior year when at the end of the tryouts I was called into the coach’s office to be told that I was cut from the team.  They did not want me!  This was really the first time that I had basically been told “we don’t want your services.”  I was not exactly sure how to process this news.  I would not be seen as a basketball player anymore.  I did, however, have a lot more time in my schedule.  My grades were very thankful for that!  But I was wrestling a bit with my identity and of course my pride. 

It was from this experience that I eventually came to the realization that I was not just a basketball player.  As a matter of fact, that was just a small percentage of who I was.  I was in fact a child of the King who now had more time to invest in serving Him in different ways.  During my college years, I had been a part of a Christian organization called Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  I decided with my new-found time to join the leadership team of FCA.  It was an exciting new role that I was really enjoying.   I also got much more serious about my major.  I jumped fully into the Education Department and thrived with my new level of involvement.  As a matter of fact, it was as a part of FCA that I had my first interaction with my future wife Lana.  It still stung to have someone tell you that you are not good enough, or we don’t want you, but as I look back on that difficult experience, it was one of the best decisions that had ever been made for me!  Years later when I became a basketball coach, I had the difficult job of cutting players to have the correct number on the roster.  It was so difficult that I actually had some empathy for the coach who had to have that talk with me. 

 What does the Bible tell us about this identity we have in Jesus Christ?  Let’s look at a few verses.  Paul was clear that he desired people to see Christ through his life.  Philippians 1:19-21 says, “For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  John talks about the joy that being known as a child of God in John 1:12-13 “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  And again, John tells us in I John 3:1-3 how incredible it is to be a child of God.  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.  Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared: but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.”  I began to comprehend that my problem was not that I would no longer be known as a basketball player.  Obviously, I wasn’t that good anyway.  But I began to realize that my problem was where I found my identity.  I started realizing how incredible it was that I was a child of God!  The older I have become the more treasured that reality is.  When all is stripped away the only thing that really matters is not how others see you but that you are a child of God.  The more we find our joy in that realization, the more we will be content in this world because we know what the future holds.  This world is not our final destination.  Let us each rejoice that our name as a child of God is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!