Why God Made Winter by David Layman
Did you ever wonder why God made winter? Of course, a little snow is beautiful. Each snowflake is different–there’s a lesson in that, for sure! The increasing minutes and hours of darkness make the coming of Jesus to be the light of the world even more enlightening. But wouldn’t a couple of weeks of snow and cold be enough, to make it “seem like Christmas” and retard the bugs and pests? When the Christmas decorations are put away for another year, in Indiana, we know that spring and new life are not just around the corner. Instead, it’s snow, ice, more snow , cold, and if we’re lucky enough for a thaw, dreary days and dirty mounds of melting snow, sand and ice!
Some fortunate souls are able to go south for the winter. But around here, some get “cabin fever” in the winter, staying where it’s warm instead of braving the elements and going out. God knew humans needed a little help to get through winter. That’s why God invented basketball! As God often does, God chose to work through human agents. One was a Canadian Presbyterian minister, James Naismith, working at a YMCA in Springfield Mass. In December of 1891, needing an indoor winter sport for young men in a cold clime, Naismith invented basketball–throwing a ball into a basket! Another Presbyterian minister involved in YMCA work there, Nicholas C. McKay, took the new game with him to Crawfordsville, Indiana, and McKay introduced the game to Indiana, where it became a hit!
Basketball was my favorite sport as a youth. As a 7th grader in Monmouth, Illinois, I played on the undefeated 7th grade team, and won a letter (we even had letter sweaters!) However, our family moved to Milwaukee when I was ready for 8th grade. The school I attended there had no organized basketball for 8th grade. When I entered the large Milwaukee high school, I tried out for, but didn’t make the combined 9th & 10th grade team. I was so disappointed! The one thing that seemed to make the long, dreary and cold winter days bearable–basketball, was not on the table for me. Many children and youth dream of being really good at something, and finding identity and popularity through that. In my youthful mind, basketball was going to be that for me. I had even prayed that if God made me a basketball star, I would give Him the praise and glory. I came to see over time that God rarely makes deals like that, which are most often “deals” which bring glory to people more than to God.
I can look back on this time now and see how God used the great disappointment of not becoming a basketball star to grow me spiritually. In my parents I had two wonderful role models. My Presbyterian minister father had done very well in school (Phi Beta Kappa at IU, 1936) and had a fine mind. Mom had a very caring heart, and related quite well with people. She was Secretary of the 1936 Senior class at IU, and was as loved by others as much as she loved them. I might not become a great athlete, but coordination and athletic talent were not required to serve the Lord with my mind and a loving heart. I tried to refocus my life.
Over 55 cold and bitter winters since that time, I’ve learned that God can sometimes teach us more through failure than success. God can use us for his kingdom in obscurity as well as in a spotlight. I’ve continued to enjoy basketball through being a fan, have watched countless games on tv, and not a few in person. John, one of the kindest, finest men I got to know in Richmond, had once been the head basketball coach at Richmond High. You noticed John “had been” the head coach, “until they fired me”, John would ruefully say. Since basketball is such a popular sport in Indiana, every one in the stands is an expert, and the town fathers can have strong opinions that if their son was playing, a winning season would result! The first high school state finals I got to see in person was when Damon Bailey (If you don’t know that name, most likely you would have quit reading this before now!) and Bedford North Lawrence won it all before over 41,000 fans in the Hoosier Dome in 1990. I saw John and his wife in between games, and with a twinkle in his eyes, John asked if maybe Pam and I should consider trying for a third child, hoping it might be a boy who might become a basketball star. I added “If we had a son, we could name him Damon…”Damon Layman!” But Pam and I were quite content with the two delightful daughters we had, and would it be right to try to fulfill my unfulfilled dreams through a child?
In 2003, I was blessed to be able to have a sabbatical. One of the things I was able to do with that time was to at last accept a church member’s long standing invitation to come to the local senior center for pick up basketball games with other men aged 50 and older. A scout from the Hoosiers, Boilers or Pacers never came by to sign one of us up, but we all had a lot of fun. And my team even won the annual 3 on 3 tournament a few times! It was good fellowship and exercise–even if I did once have a ride in an ambulance to the emergency room!
If life was all sunshine, warmth and blue skies, we’d live in a desert. And most likely, miss wonderful opportunities to glorify and enjoy God!