To The Champions Who Would Have Been

To The Champions Who Would Have Been

The following is a letter by AIA Basketball staff Bonnie Durrett to athletes whose seasons and college careers came to an abrupt end following necessary health and safety measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus.

To the Champions who Would Have Been,

First things first. I see you, and I’m sorry. I know for a fact that you’ve put in countless hours in preparation for this specific season of your life.

In a worldwide pandemic like this, it would be easy to feel unjustified in grieving this missed opportunity, when people are literally dying, suffering, or are part of the endangered subgroup of the population. Please know that your pain is real, and it has a purpose.

In the midst of these empty courts, the canceled tournaments, and the championships that have been swiped from under your feet, I want to take a moment to affirm you, as well as wrestle alongside you in how God comes into this.

Your hard work is affirmed.

“Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24 Christian Standard Bible). While this passage is referring to how Paul exhorts the church at Corinth to live out their faith, it carries a valuable life principle that applies directly to you.

As a champion who would have been, you’ve run “in such a way,” and that is to be honored and affirmed. You did what it took to win the prize, and you spent so much time and energy investing yourself in your sport and in the teammates around you.

Suffering takes no prisoners.

After all that investment, something unspeakably difficult remains true. Suffering is a “when,” not “if” situation. Granted that it comes in varying shapes and sizes, every human being is promised to suffer at some point in their lives.

For the believer, we aren’t to be surprised by this at all, but we are actually commanded to rejoice for the opportunity to share in Jesus’ suffering and glorify Him in it (1 Peter 4:12-16).

In the midst of the apostle Paul suffering in prison for his faith, he wrote, “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” (Philippians 1:20,21 English Standard Bible).

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12,13).

While we’re called as believers to rejoice in our suffering and bring glory to Christ through it, pain is pain, and as a champion that would have been, I’m so sorry that you’re experiencing it in this capacity.

Lament with hope.

Lamentation, simply put, is “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.” I would encourage you to lament to God the victory that would have been yours. You went through a great deal to get to this point, and that’s worthy of grieving.

As many are suffering sickness and are increasingly fearful, I would also encourage you to lament with your brothers and sisters around the world, many of whom are part of an endangered subgroup or directly affected by someone who is.

I take comfort in knowing a few things about God in the middle of pain, and I hope you find some rest in this as well.

  • God sees our pain, hears our cries, knows our sufferings, and will ultimately deliver us. Exodus 3:7,8
  • The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
  • He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

Over a third of the Psalms are filled with lament. Lament for a follower of Jesus cries out with the pain of right now. It doesn’t put on a mask of strength and pretend to be okay, but rather enters into the call to “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

As we lament as believers, we also rest in and take comfort in this promise, fixing our eyes on Jesus and trusting that He’s already run in the perfect way for us as the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1,2). This is why we can lament with hope.

Live with an Audience of One in mind.

The current circumstances brought on by the spread of COVID-19 bring so many thoughts to my mind concerning the different perspective this provides for what Audience of One looks like in this realm, but here’s one final thought I want to leave you with as the champion that you are: Continue to seek out and truly know the only audience that matters, our Heavenly Father.

This time of charged emotions and heightened fearfulness due to this global pandemic is an opportunity, yes, to wash your hands, but also to wash feet. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28).

We have an opportunity right now through the power of the Holy Spirit to comfort, serve, and pray for the hurting and afflicted. Whether we are dropping off groceries for the higher at-risk subgroups or empathizing with the concerns of a classmate or coworker we encounter, this is a time to champion the servanthood and love that our Lord has perfected and empowered us to live out.

Thank you for everything you sacrificed to get to this point. As the season has come to an abrupt halt, I encourage you to sit in and process that pain, held with the tension, understanding, and hope, however, that this is not final.

Continue to run in such a way, and I can promise you that God will be with you every single step of the journey.

Lastly, if you’re one of the recipients of this letter and would like to discuss this further, please feel free to reach out to me at bonnie.durrett@athletesinaction.org.

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