I hated Physical Education in Middle School. I hated it because our PE Teacher, Coach Whatever-His-Name-Was believed in team sports. He also believed in picking the most athletic students be the captains. They would start off every period by picking their teams for the day. I don’t know why it was done this way; the teams never changed.
The first boys chosen were always the same. They were the friends of the captains, fellow athletes blessed with bodies that moved when and where they wanted them to move. There was a little variation when it came to the middle of the pack depending on the sport. During football season, size mattered. Same thing with basketball season, though size was measured in height, not weight. During volleyball season, height also mattered, along with the ability to smash the ball over the net. All that mattered during baseball season was your ability to hit the ball.
After the first twelve boys are so, the picking slowed down. The captains looked over the dregs and decided who would do their team the least amount of damage. The dregs were the same four guys: Neal, who was small for his age; Robert, who would often get blown away during a stiff a wind; Matt, also small for his age, with really thick glasses; and me.
I was not small for my age. In fact, I reached six feet in middle school. Unfortunately, my body had grown so fast, my brain had not kept up. I would send a signal to my arms to swing, and my body would respond about three seconds later – after the ball had been caught by the catcher. I would shoot the basketball during warm drills and miss the backboard and rim. The chant of “Airball! Airball!” was invented to describe my play on the court. I was of some value during basketball season. I could stand in the lane, hold up my arms, and occupy space, so the shooter would have to dribble around me. Sometimes I wouldn’t either bother to run to the other end of the court – I would just stand there, knowing the game would come back to me.
I remember the team captains arguing over us: “I took Clay yesterday, you take him.” “No way, he can’t do anything!” Was it any wonder that my nickname throughout childhood was “Charlie Brown.” Physical Education was the one hour of day guaranteed to send me the message that I didn’t fit. It was a regular pounding of my ego.
I only found out later that the athletes felt out of place in history, where I made straight “A’s,” and in English, where they would struggle to read through the stories I would zoom through. Everyone feels like they don’t fit sometime.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus sought out the people who didn’t fit, and he gave them all the same message: In my Kingdom, you do fit. I love you and I want you to belong. He comes to the wounded space inside all of us with the same message: I choose you.
Listen to His voice, not the voice of PE teachers and captains of long ago. He wants you for His team.