In the darkness of my parents’ basement I slide open the movie drawer, looking for the sky blue case of the VHS tape of Hoosiers. I don’t find it. It’s not there. Maybe it’s broken? Or maybe, I start to think, my parents gave me their only copy of the film—the one I left on the East Coast, which is now some twelve hundred miles away.
I can’t imagine my dad would let that movie be taken away from him. My dad, tall, and with such an easy smile and a deep love for the game of basketball, is the “Coach” of my own story. Well, he’s the guy who has always reminded me that without being strong in the fundamentals of the game, the rest of it doesn’t much matter. It’s what Norman Dale, the coach in Hoosiers, talks about.
One scene from the film sticks with me, a scene where Coach Dale has approached Myra, one of the school’s teachers, at the edge of her Indiana farm. They start talking, and then Myra says to Coach, very seriously, “There are a few things I missed, not being here. I missed knowin’ nothing changes, people never change. It makes you feel real solid.”
Of course, it isn’t true. People do change.
But she still says it. And I wonder if she’s not getting at that feeling of consistency, of feeling like you’re grounded in something—be it a place or a community or a family—and you know you belong. It does bring back good feelings to go back to that place, or to that family. But to expect things will always be the same is an unrealistic expectation.
Coming back to my own small town in Indiana following a few years of living away, I’m so aware of the way time has changed me and the way it’s changed things around me. The East Coast is quite different from the Midwest. I notice it most in terms of religion. Sometimes, out east, it seems like people just don’t care to go to church anymore. The habit, the importance, has been forgotten, and “liking” church has become more important than worshipping God.
But I guess that can happen anywhere.
It strikes me that as people, we can sometimes draw lines between what’s new and what’s “old,” what’s modern and what’s “outdated.” The latter label naturally takes the negative connotation. Admittedly, I do sometimes find “old-fashioned” to be…strict, or that someone “set in their ways” must be wrong because they’re not willing to consider a new idea. My idea, maybe. And yes, sometimes I find the rules and expectations of the older generations to be somewhat a-sympathetic to the culture and society of the current day. That said, each generation goes through a period of time when they reject or resist the ideas of their predecessors and push for new ideas, for growth into new ground. Just like I sometimes resist what is “old,” so my parents likely did too.
But perhaps the question we must ask ourselves is not whether we should embrace or demand change, but rather what needs to change and what must stay the same. Take this back to Hoosiers. Coach Dale would have said, “The players stay; we’ll work with what we’ve got. But we get rid of this one-man offense. We go back to the basics. We work hard. This is not about the ‘I,’ but about the ‘we.’”
I recently read that the Christians of the millennial generation—people eighteen to thirty-four years old—may have the strongest faith of any of the other generations. The article draws attention to the intentionality of the millennials. It’s saying, “Hey, these millennial Christians, they really, really dig Jesus. They’re serious. They want this.” Just as any athlete wants a win.
Is this to say that Baby Boomer Christians, or Generation X Christians, or Christians who came before any of them, are…weak-flamed? Are they halfhearted?
Of course not. Each Christian, each member of the body of Christ, is important. Each member becomes a teammate, so to speak, but the game is one that ends in peace and unity, in love, in forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
The idea transcends time or age, that Jesus calls those who believe in him to be adamantly serious about living a life that reflects his grace and goodness. There is nothing so-so about it. Life is finite. In the end, we have to choose, and we cannot be apathetic in the least. God needs us—and everyone—to be intentional with his or her faith. Remember Jesus’s words in Revelation: “‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot!’…The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches”.
I remember the days when the last thing I wanted to do was pull on my basketball jersey. I didn’t care about winning or losing, I didn’t have the passion for the game required to play it well. But, thankfully, sports aren’t what really matters. How actively we live out God’s fundamentals—his love, his forgiveness, his peace—this is what matters.
That “solid feeling” Myra talked about is nothing we can leave and then come back to. It either lives in us or we let it go. It comes from Christ. And “knowing” Christ is not something that comes in a snap; it is not missing in older people and it’s not exclusively “active” in younger people. It would be good to remember it. It would be good to never forget it—to understand and be passionate about the Truth that is unchanging, even as we are, day in and day out.