The court was full of girls. Big girls. Tall girls. Girls who had already begun their growth spurts and a few whose bodies were already developing into the women they would one day become. There were a few who were just a few inches shy of my height but looked as though they weighed the same or more than me. All of them, girls of only twelve or thirteen years.
My girl took to the court beside them, high-fiving friends from school or waving to a past team mate. All confidence and determination, this one. Her smile alone weighs 20 pounds of pure gold but even that couldn't lift her stature the extra inches necessary to break even with the next smallest girl on the hardwood next to her.
We cheered from the sidelines, the only parents who simultaneously coached and encouraged and celebrated every time she touched the ball. These were only tryouts - not the typical event for fan participation. But we saw her lining up all David in her enthusiasm and faith in her abilities against the Goliaths of giant proportions and more experience and thought maybe some support from those who had brought her up to believe she could do whatever she put her mind to would do her good.
And she did good - in fact, her best. She made her layups, she dribbled quick and made steals on defense and outran and outlasted many of the bigger girls. Her legs were weak and weary when she made a pit stop on the bench during a line change-up but her face shone with sweat and enthusiasm.
With a half-smile she said to me, "I don't think I'm going to make it." My resolve to stay strong and be her loudest cheerleader wavered in that moment and I held my tongue as I fought back tears. I smiled instead and nodded for her to continue. "The other girls are better."
That wasn't exactly true. They were bigger to be sure and able to grab rebounds and box out opponents with their longer arms and wider hips. But they weren't fast. They weren't well conditioned. They weren't all great ball handlers. Not like my daughter.
Yet it was easy to see what the coaches saw - their potential. The coaches are trying to form a winning team, a combination of ability and possibility, and when your skills are good but not useful to visionaries knowing what the competition would be and knowing how best to outfit an army of players of equal or greater abilities, it's not likely that you make the cut.
I knew she was giving her best. And that's exactly what we had asked for, all of us. Her parents and coaches and team mates wanted to see what she was capable of and what strengths she could bring. But I could see the reality that she understood. There were only five who would be cut and didn't it seem possible that the shortest and smallest would be among the five.
We got the email yesterday after school. It was a long day at school where the few who tried out alongside her congratulated each other on making the competitive team and who kindly suggested that perhaps she did not since her name wasn't included in the email from the coaches. She wanted to be sure and we checked as soon as she came through the door and they were right.
"I'd like to thank you for coming to try-out. Unfortunately, you did not make the team this year. I encourage you to play house league this year and improve your skills. Best of luck..."
I wondered quietly to myself if this is the year she should pick a new hobby or sport, maybe one better suited to her stature and one with long term potential. Maybe that hip-hop class she had wanted to try or voice lessons or sewing or anything that wouldn't discriminate again based on her size or age or looks. No, she shook her head firmly. She would keep playing basketball. She would keep improving, imploring her dad for private instruction, and she would try again. Or not. Maybe she would just play house league this year and next and be content in the role she could play on the team she could make. Whatever the team, she would bring the same effort and excitement and let God choose how He would use her to affect those around her.
There's a lesson in this for me. And perhaps for you? The rewards we aspire to and perspire for in life aren't always granted on the other side of our latest and greatest achievements. The platforms and elevation we hope might come because we just proved how talented and able we are for the task don't always. Sometimes it's just on the flip side of our proven glories, the shot made from right inside the three point line or the goal made in the try-out of our life or the submission ripped straight from the pages of our heart, when we most expect the accolades and offers to pour in, we find ourselves alone in the quietness of rejection and dejection. In the absence of approval, the taunts of disapproval grow louder and we believe that our best wasn't good enough.
Yet maybe it is. Maybe our best wasn't meant for the higher level of competition or the grander scale or broader reach. Maybe we were created with our gift and our expertise for this lower-lit stage, for this smaller audience, for such a time as this where such as these are. Maybe our missed opportunities don't point to our failures as much as they reveal where we can best shine. Maybe that team or partnership or promotion wasn't meant for us but this, this place where I've landed, is the perfect platform for me to excel and influence even while continuing to learn and grow.
We can't all reach the top of our fields or every one of us be giants among men. But we can bring our best. When we understand that some of us earn our places and positions but that God places all in thrones to reign or fields to serve, we can find contentment and purpose in what we have been given and where we have been placed to live our best life among others who are living theirs.
When your best isn't good enough, know you've landed in God's best for you for now. Maybe forever. But His best cannot be thwarted by your efforts. His best will find you wherever you land.