Go Long, for Life

By Leroy Barber 11-15-2013
As in football, go for the long ball in life. Bikeriderlondon/Shutterstoc

As in football, go for the long ball in life. Bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock

Growing up I played a lot of football. In my neighborhood there was a constant stream of games that took place in the driveway, on the street, in the schoolyard. Some days we would walk to the park and play tackle on the grass. Growing up in West Philly, it was mostly two-hand touch because there weren't too many grassy fields available, but it didn't matter. We played all the time. We even had competitions between blocks — 56th and Berks was always the best, of course. It was always fun.  

Something I remember from those days that I think rings true today is "the bomb." You know the play: You go long and the quarterback throws it as far as possible to you. The "bomb" was super exciting but very high risk. In fact, unless you had a terrific quarterback and a really fast person, it didn't work most times. The funny thing about the long ball, though, is that it opened up the defense for shorter plays to work well. The threat of the long ball kept defenses honest. In football, if the defensive players have no fear of your going long, they stack up against you and the shorter plays become incredibly hard and frustrating. It's as if the defense can predict what you're going to do and outnumber you. 
Many people live their lives, and some nonprofits run their organizations, this way —never going for the long ball. It doesn't make sense, and it's always a high risk, so we keep just running short plays in our lives — the enemy of our souls keeping us in check, overwhelming us because we only stick to the safe short plays. Organizations are short-playing themselves out of existence. The truth is, most of the time the long ball won't work, but what it does is open up the defense and give space for the short game to work. Your short game isn't working because you may be so trapped by fear that you never just go for it. 
Fear of failure keeps you in the short game, and ironically this often becomes a predictor of failure. Who wants "good enough"? I don't think God created us to be just good enough. The evil around us, our enemy, loves good enough because it can stack the line and win every time. The thing is, you can win with a good short game even with a few failed "bombs."  A failed long ball opens up space in our lives for great plays in the trenches. Failure opens up the game. Here is my advice: Whether it's a decision for your life, family, or organization, "GO LONG!"

Leroy Barber is the global executive director of Word Made Flesh, an international organization that works among the most vulnerable of the world's poor.  He is on the boards of Mission Year and the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). He is the author of New Neighbor: An Invitation to Join Beloved Community, and Everyday Missions: How Ordinary People Can Change the World and was also chosen as a contributor to Tending to Eden, and the groundbreaking book UnChristian: What a New Generation Thinks About Christianity and Why It Matters

Photo: Bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock

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