An Eye for an Eye, a Few Teeth for a Rebound


March 2, 2012 by Jay Helms

Opening Disclaimer: While I write a good bit about others in this post, the real point is not to discuss another person’s behavior, but to embrace a process for maturing and growing in my own life. So please take my descriptions with a sense of humor and a dose of light-heartedness.


So there I am, holding a basketball in one hand and grasping at the right side of my jaw with the other hand to massage the spot where I just got slapped by a cranky 6’8″ guy with a seemingly 8′ wingspan. I had just managed to steal the ball right out of his hands after he had snatched the rebound out of the rafters way above us. Greeting my face with his palm was his way of expressing his displeasure with the way things had just turned out.

Through years of playing basketball, I’ve been smacked by people ranging from 15-35 years old. And I must confess I have done my share of hacking other players over the years as well. It’s not fun to get hit, but it’s not too big a deal. It wasn’t until Darren invited me to play with his team in this league that I began to experience the sheer delight of being aggressively and carelessly tagged by a gigantic, talented, and athletic (read – he’s way out of my league) 45 year old.

I don’t have enough fingers & toes on which to count the number of times this entitled behemoth hollered a complaint to a teammate or toward the referees. In the end, our team won by 2 and this guy was not pleased. As we stood outside the gym reliving some of the plays and experiences from the game, I saw the big fella headed our way so naturally I invited our team to move along, lest there be an unfriendly encounter in a few seconds. Right then our captain turned and said to me, “Yeah, this was his first game back after a 2 game suspension. But no, really, Sam is such a nice guy off the court. He knows it’s just a game. He plays hard, but he leaves all of that stuff on the court.”

What?! Really? He almost left my teeth on the court. And he didn’t seem concerned about it in the least. Maybe he lives by the old adage “an eye for an eye and a few teeth for a rebound“. I’ve come to believe, wholeheartedly & without exception, that it is no longer OK to me, for me, to behave like a total jerk and “leave it all on the court” and walk away like all of that never happened in “the real world.” No one has to agree with me, but I am saying I think this kind of talk is cheap. It is old-fashioned immaturity masquerading as a Jedi Master’s ability to control the force. The reason I bring all of this up is because this is personal…for about two decades I have been fighting to face my own behavior and accept the challenge of growing and maturing through a sport that has brought out the worst in me at times.

All of this leads me to the six ways I’ve counted, through which God breaks into my life and our lives to show me/us something worth seeing and embracing. The first challenge is in slowing down long enough to recognize them as a work God is doing. The second challenge is handling these moments with humility and patience. The six ways God shows me important things are:

A Speed Bump (something jarring or unsettling, perhaps a bad argument or something similar)
A Mirror Moment (get a glimpse of what I’m really like)


A Brick Wall (these are devastating, costly moments)

Vision Moments (getting a glimpse of what is possible in the Kingdom of God)
The Sublime/Utterly Beautiful Moments (when everything is right and lovely in the world)
Something I Learn/Read/Hear that speaks directly to my life (can come from many places, but often these come from Scripture or from Biblically informed works)

So here is what this has to do with my basketball experience last night…because I took seriously what it was God was showing me through a few painful mirror moments while playing basketball in November and December, God was able to speak to me through vision moments and sublime moments last night. My experience last night was very different than my opponent’s and it had very little to do with the score. I had fun, laughed a good bit, played hard, scored more points than I did in my whole HS career, treated opponents with real respect, and was even relaxed about the officiating. That’s a really good night, no matter the score, and I believe it can happen again the next time I’m on the court…”You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.” (Acts 2:28)

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6)

One thought on “An Eye for an Eye, a Few Teeth for a Rebound

  1. Mom says:

    Dear Jay,
    My computer is back home! Now I can read the e-mails that take more than a few seconds. (I dislike tying up Tommy’s computer any more than necessary. You understand.) The pictures tell your story. Thank you for a wonderful expression of spiritual maturity.

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Jay Helms


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