The college basketball season tips off this week, marking a new season for thousands of athletes, coaches and fans across the country. There are new coaches, teammates, positions, skills, and expectations.
We begin new seasons all the time. New jobs, new schools, new relationships. As college basketball kicks off every year, it reminds me of the start of my current season of life: parenthood.
On the night after my son was born in November 2012, I sat in the hospital bed holding him, feeling a lot of conflicting emotions: nervous and thankful; exhausted and restless; alone and in love. And in the middle of all that, college basketball kick-off tournaments were playing around the clock. I watched teams started their competitive seasons as I began a new life-season.
Whether you’re facing the beginning of a new competitive season or a major life transition, these two things are true:
It won’t be the way you expect it to be.
You get injured. Your coach quits. You fail a class. Your best friend transfers. Your baby gets sick. Your job is eliminated. None of these things are planned, and only some of them are in our control. We should expect surprises and disruptions, even while hoping for the best.
The tricky thing about this “hope,” though, is that it isn’t enough if we rest in our own ability to adapt or even the support of our team.
The core of our approach to a new season must be rooted in the unchanging nature and presence of God. Hebrews 6 talks about the unchanging nature of God as the “anchor for our soul.” His holiness, justice, love, and grace are the same - both at the beginning of a new season and when things change in the middle.
There will be times when you need to intentionally hold fast to that anchor, so here are a couple ideas that might help:
Pick a song that reminds you of God’s faithfulness to listen to on your way to practice.
Memorize a brief passage of scripture you can call to mind when you’re feeling unsettled, like Hebrews 13:8 (Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever), Isaiah 43:19 (See, I am doing a new thing!) or Malachi 3:6 (I the Lord do not change).
Ask a friend or mentor to pray for you in your season of change, and invite them to check-in regularly.
You are not alone.
Starting a new season can be lonely. In the same way that God’s nature doesn’t change when we experience transition, his presence with us is also constant. Time and time again, God promises his people that he will never leave. In the awkward stage of getting to know new teammates, or the isolating nights with a crying newborn, God is with you.
When we’re anchored in the unchanging love of God and trusting his promise to be with us, we can approach new seasons of life with confidence and steadiness. The core of our identity is the same in every season: a dearly loved child of God.
In the awkward “getting to know you” phase with a new team, in the midst of trying to live up to high hopes for your season, or in the uncertainty of leadership transitions, trusting God’s presence and love frees us from living for the approval of others or even measuring up to our own expectations.
You’ll find yourself forgetting that God is with you, though, and might get lost in loneliness, doubt, or stress. Simple practices like these can help remind you that God is with you:
Find a small item (something even like a leaf or stone) to carry with you in your gym bag, backpack or briefcase. When you see it, take a couple seconds to thank God for being with you.
Put a scripture verse on your mirror, dresser, or car radio. Here are a few that might help:
Joshua 1:9 - "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
Deuteronomy 31:6 - "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
Psalm 18:2 - "The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."
Psalm 139:7 - "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?"
In seasons of change, grounding our hearts and identities in God not only frees us from external expectations, but it also frees us to give and build others up. Instead of viewing teammates as competitors, you will be able to encourage them. Instead of being skeptical of your new boss, you will be able to respond to their leadership positively. Instead of dreading the constant neediness of an infant, you will be able to respond lovingly.
As tip-off tournaments play around the clock this week and the world of college basketball officially begins a new season, we all can remember that it will not go exactly as planned, but God is unchanging and with us through it all.