• Stephannie Bramlett

Out With the Old. In With the Bold.

As I have entered the second half of my thirties I have found that many things do not surprise me anymore. I can cast a generalization here to say most of us have certain expectations that typically ring true in the various scenarios of our lives. I expect that my husband is going to reply with as few words as possible to my lengthy texts. I expect that despite me asking 1000s of times, my girls have not made their beds in the morning without a reminder. I expect that the waitress at our favorite, local diner will give great, southern customer service, complete with a to-go drink. Recently, though, someone shattered my expectations, and it has changed my heart in many ways.

A couple of months ago, I sought out on a search for individual basketball lessons for my oldest daughter. She decided to really focus on sharpening her skills in her true love: basketball. While our small town is lovely, there are not many options for basketball lessons. I figured I would have to venture to Chattanooga to obtain what I was looking for. However, after several conversations with some local coaches, I was pointed in the direction of a local college senior.

I sent him a text introducing myself and explaining how I got ahold of his information. I did not know for sure, but I assumed he was in his early twenties. His text responses were not as clear as I would have liked. I was trying to find the best time slot with our crazy schedule and his class schedule. I would get frustrated in trying to get it all figured out between his short texts, often with hours or even days of waiting on his responses. I seriously almost even backed out one time out of frustration. This, of course, set my expectations for this young man. I expected a lackluster engagement, at best.

Finally, though, we had enough communication set to meet for our first lesson. He was late. He came running in, introduced himself, asked what Carly wanted to work on, and got busy. I watched from the bleachers pretty amazed as he lit up on the court. His energy was contagious and Carly began working on things with a joyful spirit! I watched as she tackled learning certain skillsets that have always frustrated her. I know part of this was because it was not her parents trying to tell her what to do, but a skilled athlete. Still, there was something special about the way he interacted with her that changed her frustration (often followed by lots of tears) to grit and willingness to try again.

The lesson was coming to an end and this young man came to the bleachers where I was sitting to strike up a conversation.

"Mrs. Bramlett, I am so glad for the opportunity to work with Carly today. She is a hard worker. I am sorry I was running late. You do not even have to pay me for today, ma'am." He paused...not long enough for me to speak up, but just enough to gather up the courage, I suppose.... "Mrs. Bramlett, I'm not sure of your faith or belief in God. But, I would love to pray with you and Carly today."

A little surprised, I replied, "Of course..." and before I could even continue, he reached out his hands to ours, held tightly, and began praying. "Lord. Thank you for basketball. Thank you for hard work. Thanks for our health so we can play sports that we love. Thanks for parents that bring us to practices. Thanks for this day so that we can serve you. We love you, Lord."

If you know me at all, you know that I am not normally short for words. I can talk with the best of them...to complete strangers...for WAY too long. In this moment, however, I stood in that basketball gym completely stunned. I thanked him for working with Carly, paid him for the fabulous lesson, and then we had to rush off to pick up my other girls from the dance studio.

Hours passed, but I could not shake the feeling I had. This young man who met me for the first time...This young man who was a different race from me...This young man who had set my expectation to be one of disappointment (college aged, limited communication via text, running late, etc) had completely surprised me with his boldness. The conviction I felt was strong.

How many times in my career as a health care professional had I had an opportunity to be bold and pray for someone in their time of need but miss the opportunity out of fear? How many times had women approached me to talk about a trouble and, even though I felt the holy spirit tug my heart, I was too afraid to pray with them? How many opportunities had I had to pray with others at sporting events but never even thought to do so?

I shared my conviction with my husband, Cab. I was so inspired by the encounter. How much boldness and courage did it take for this young man to take my hand and pray? More than it should have for me in so many of the circumstances I had chickened out over my lifetime.

The next week my husband took Carly to her lesson. He seemed interested in the techniques and learning what was working to inspire Carly. He videoed some of the interactions and was eager to speak with the instructor after the lesson. Cab noticed a bit of hesitation as the young man approached him. If you know Cab at all, he makes humor, often akward jokes/one-liners, to cut any weirdness in a scenario (think Chandler from Friends). The young coach walked up and Cab, noticing a slight internal struggle with the young man, said "Are we going to do this thing or what?" and reached his hand over to him. Cab, Carly, and the young man stood in the middle of the gym and prayed together!

Many times since our first, we have prayed together after basketball lessons. More now than ever, I am certain God can use the simplest of exchanges to change hearts. This young man, who I hired to give basketball lessons to my eleven year old daughter, has forever changed my heart to one of boldness. I ask you, when you are tugged by the spirit to pray with others, do you? When your heart senses a need, do you follow the push of conviction to fulfill the need or turn a blind eye? I have been guilty of questioning the outcome or worrying what others may think of our encounter as a reason for not being bold in my faith. Thankfully, God showed me how to be bold, no matter the obstacles or circumstance. I am sure this young man had no idea this was an area of my heart that needed to be evaluated. The way I see it, God is mighty and will give us the boldness we need, if we choose to allow Him to work through us.

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