“Embrace the process!”
Those words echo through my mind to this day as I encounter various challenges in my life.
With clarity, I can hear the voice of my college basketball coach who would emphatically instruct me and my teammates to “embrace the process!” When we were “slow” in adjusting to a new drill or play, we would hear that profound and life-applicable revelation (although it felt more of a scolding at the time).
Certainly there were major growing pains, but for me they were worth it.
Here are four things you should embrace during the process.
1. Embrace the process when you’re at the beginning.
On the eve of my sophomore year at the University of Oklahoma, a new coach and her staff were embarking on their debut with a whole new approach. I was highly excited and expectant for great success. I had known about the new head coach as our schools had competed with each other a handful of times while I was in high school. She was a well-respected coach in the upper division of Oklahoma schools and had statewide notoriety, and perhaps even national recognition due to her protégés and championships. By the time I entered college, my focus was to continue the journey of being one of the best players on one of the best teams in the country. It was the focus of all of us, and with the new staff, it was certainly more in view than ever.
The season launched the Big XII Conference and, for our team, the beginning of a “rebuilding era.” We were all challenged, and I don’t think any of us could have forecasted what the years would entail. But let me tell you, there were many processes to embrace! The level of intensity surely matched my desire. It was greatly welcomed, although we all longed for many rest breaks!
2. Embrace the process when you don’t know where you stand.
With the physical limits being pushed day in and day out, the mental ones were stretched even more. In athletics, you can’t separate the two … neither can we in life. Needless to say, “embracing the process” proved to be difficult and served as a constant reminder to overcome. Of course, I didn’t want that shouted in my direction at the time.
It was bittersweet as some of my teammates either transferred or quit. By the end of my sophomore season, my twin sister and I were the only original recruits remaining from the previous coaching staff. It was tough, but I wasn’t going anywhere (although I briefly contemplated it once).
It had been a difficult time for me personally as my athletic goals and dreams weren’t materializing, and I couldn’t understand why.
Discouragement definitely had set in, and I couldn’t see a way through it.
3. Embrace the process when it doesn’t seem to be paying off.
My playing time majorly lessened over the three years (even though I was touted as one of the most gifted players and hardest workers on the team, and often would beat out those who were put in front of me). I had run into obstacles in the area of mental toughness; even my stats suffered greatly as I became so fearful, so self-doubting and defeated. A childhood dream was dying, and parts of me were too.
It may sound ridiculous now since it was just a game, but my life had always revolved around sports, mainly basketball. I had never encountered this type of weakness before.
The road to “greatness” wasn’t what I had pictured. In the midst of my tears and with the prayers of loved ones, God showed me that He was the ultimate source of my strength, and that He loved and valued me for who I was and not how I performed.
4. Embrace the process when you’re at the end of it (and the beginning of the next one!).
The reality came the summer before my senior year. Despite the pain, misunderstanding and confusion, I kept showing up and embracing the process of “becoming.” I persevered and grew so much more in character, leadership and skills, a process that I experientially know is continually evolving.
Since then, I have been blessed to travel to several nations with some amazing people—collegiate and professional athletes eager to share the Gospel—and those very principles and skills have been ingrained in me.
Process promotes and propels you into the next thing God has for you.
When we embrace the process of where we are, even when it seems too hard or even impossible, we can surely overcome. Jesus did. He overcame for you and me. And if He did it by embracing His own Father’s process—the stark reality of overcoming a horrendous torment unto death for an undeserving people—how much more can we overcome with His very nature empowering us to move forward and be who He has made us to be?
Throughout my life, I have learned that with change there will be some level of challenge. Challenge is good because it has a way of revealing what we are made of and forces us to make decisions to move forward. With the right perspective, we choose the direction of godly growth … or else we become paralyzed and retreat.
Embrace the process today, my friend. I want to leave you with some Scriptures that I wrote down on my basketball shoes in my senior year. As you meditate on these, embrace the process: Romans 5:3-5, Ephesians 6:10-20, Matthew 6:33, and Romans 8:28.