Monday, October 6, 2008

Great Potential!

Cribbage is a wonderful game. I grew up playing with my Dad, my brothers, my uncles, cousins, and any innocent bystanders who could spare an hour. Often, I got to experience the joy of winning. One of my brothers -- I suppose he's a realist -- would rather teach me something than let me win. I had an almost-great hand. If the right card was turned up, I would've had a fantastic hand. As I considered what to discard to his crib, I couldn't see past that awesome potential if only a five or a seven were turned up. Since I had a couple of options, I thought the odds might be in my favor.

Nope. It was a three. What can you do with a three? Well, with that hand, at least, a three was nothing. I pegged only four points, and then Tom noticed what I'd had.

"You can't play to the potential. Just go with what you've got."

I argued that the points I could have had would have put me around the bend, poised to win.

"You have to play what you've got, not plan around what might happen."

A similar conversation has occurred repeatedly over the years with my husband, discussing our favorite high school football teams. At the beginning of every season, we hear all about how much potential this year's team has, and what a great record they may achieve. Then, they lose a couple of close games, and he notes the dropped passes that could have led to first downs and even touchdowns, and the running backs who were too busy playing another sport to show up in the weight room. If the receivers could catch, if the backs could push through, we might have won a few more games.

Now, I don't mean for this to sound like all he was doing was criticizing. There's more to these conversations, but I highlight this to bring out that lesson my brother taught me. You've got what you've got, and that's all. There's nothing the coaches can do to make the players perform at the very peak of their abilities, every play, every game. Sure, that runner would have been stronger if he'd had time to lift weights all spring and summer, but he's here now and this is what he can do. The receivers have every right to be nervous, but I'm hoping that they'll learn to focus on the ball and not the hit that's coming. We can't count on going to the playoffs, just enjoy the season and the record the guys earn. Period.

Just as I was disappointed in the outcome of that one cribbage hand, so I have to learn to deal with the outcome of a football game and the standings at the end of the season. Take what you get, make the most of every moment, and go on with the rest of life.

The writer of the book of Hebrews addressed a hoped-for potential like this:

Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you."

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