A few weeks ago my husband and I were in our bathroom brushing our teeth before bed.
“Why are you brushing your teeth left-handed?” my husband asked me. I glanced down and saw that, yes, my toothbrush was in my left hand.
“Uhhh…” I paused, trying to think why I was doing this when I am in fact right-handed.
Then I remembered.
I used to play basketball in middle and high school. Looking back, it consumed a lot of my life. If I wasn’t playing a game, I was practicing. If I wasn’t practicing, I was probably thinking about how I should be practicing. I loved it. And I always wanted to get better.
I am right-handed. Most people are (70-90% – and that’s coming from Wikipedia, so you KNOW it’s true). But being right-handed is rather unfortunate for a basketball player. I used to actually be envious when I met left-handed people – they have such an advantage on the basketball court, and they can be much harder to guard.
I’ll never forget when my basketball coach once told me, “Everyone knows which direction you’re going. You will always go right. You have no left hand.”
I took it personally. Mainly because I knew he was right – I didn’t have a left hand. It might as well have been removed, because I didn’t use it in a game. In fact, I might as well have just roped off the entire left side of the court – because I didn’t use that either.
It just didn’t come naturally.
But I also took this as a personal challenge. I have no left hand, huh? We’ll see.
So I started making a few changes. During practice, I dribbled more with my left hand. I worked on ball handling drills, working my left hand more than my right. It felt awkward and a little uncomfortable. And sometimes when my coach’s back was turned, I’d switch to my right. But I tried.
Game time would come. I’d use my left more often, but in pressure situations, I’d panic.
Back to the right hand.
I didn’t understand – I was using my left hand during practices…why wasn’t it easier in games? My coach then brought to my attention the fact that I only spent about 2 hours a day in basketball practice. The rest of the day’s hours I was also using my hands – and most of the time, it was my right hand that I used.
But I’m right-handed! I thought. Why wouldn’t I use that hand? It comes more naturally!
Do you want a left hand?
Of course, I said.
Then do everything left-handed.
I thought it was ridiculous. But I really liked basketball. So I tried it.
I ate with my left hand.
I brushed my teeth with my left hand.
I tried writing with my left hand (key word, “tried”).
Any task I encountered throughout the day, I attempted to do it with my left hand first.
Things didn’t go so well in the beginning. I pushed food around my plate awkwardly with my fork. I overshot when brushing my teeth, sometimes getting toothpaste all over my cheeks. I knocked things over. I dropped things.
Using my left hand just didn’t come naturally to me.
I did this for several weeks. Weeks turned into months.
Pretty soon, I forgot why I was trying to use my left hand more. I just kept doing it.
It just came naturally.
I don’t know the exact moment when it happened, but I suddenly started to use my left hand to get out of pressure situations in basketball games. I used the left side of the court. I did left-handed layups. I dribbled the length of the court left-handed.
I still turned the ball over sometimes (sometimes a lot) when going left. The left-handed awkwardness would take over, and I’d lose control, or the ball would get stripped away. I would awkwardly over-shoot my layups.
But those mistakes happened less and less the more I used my left hand.
Why am I sharing this? Here’s why:
If you are human, you were born with some natural tendencies. From the first moment you breathed air, you were inclined to sin. You were taught when you were young how to do the “right thing” – but no one ever had to teach you how to lie, gossip, think envious thoughts, cheat, or steal.
And what’s more, we all know this to be true about each other. We know that our friends and family are more inclined to be selfish, rude, hateful, dishonest, etc. It comes more easily. Don’t believe me? Start checking yourself when you’re driving down the road and someone cuts you off, or changes lanes without signaling. Or when you’ve picked the one line at Wal-Mart where the lady in front of you decides to actually write a check. Or when your 5 month old absolutely refuses to take a nap (not speaking from experience or anything…).
All these self-loving and self-centered tendencies come easily and naturally.
So in a way, we are all “spiritually right-handed.”
If “going right” means that we go with what comes naturally, then we sin. Plain and simple.
But if you are a Christ-follower, God has called you to something more. He wants you to be a lefty.
God calls us to put off the old man and put on the new (Eph. 4:22-24). If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).
God’s Word says that he has given us everything we need in order to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). So while it may not always come naturally for me to make right decisions or to put others before myself – God has enabled me to do those things through Christ’s redemptive work on the cross (Phil 2:13).
So for example – it may not come naturally to choose to wait to have sex until marriage, or to choose not to act on homosexual feelings, or to choose to carry an unplanned pregnancy to term when it doesn’t seem to make financial sense – but Christ strengthens us to make these hard (but also right) decisions.
I hear people say this all the time to explain the reason for their actions: “This is just the way I am.” “I’m just being myself.” “God made me this way.” “You don’t understand, If it weren’t for (enter names here), I wouldn’t be this way…”
I definitely think there is something to be said for different personalities or for the influence of family members and peers on our actions and reactions. But most of the time (and I include myself in this) I think this is a copout – an excuse to not take responsibility for our short tempers, angry spirits, complaining attitudes, lustful thoughts…whatever it may be. But if I claim to be a follower of Christ, that means I have forfeited my own rights to my body, attitude, and actions. I am not my own (1 Cor. 6:20).
Using my left hand wasn’t natural for me. But it became more natural when I changed my lifestyle – when I altered my behavior and began performing daily tasks with the goal of becoming a better ball handler. In the same way, truly following Christ means changing our lifestyles – our way of thinking. It means doing the hard things in the small moments of life, so that when game time comes, we’ll be ready. This is a work of the Holy Spirit in us – we can’t manufacture this heart transformation on our own.
This concept rubs a lot of people the wrong way. People want the benefits of a relationship with God without all that “dying to self” stuff. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll be called “intolerant” or have people roll their eyes at you if you try to hold others accountable for this truth.
But if someone claims to be a believer, then the best, most loving thing we can do for them is to hold them accountable. 1 John 1:6 says, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”
Whoever says they walk with God yet denies that any self-discipline is required of us in order to follow him and continues in the same old lifestyle patterns is – well – a liar. These are frightening concepts.
As I shared with Matt my reason for using my left hand that night, I felt humbled by the great amount of self-discipline I demonstrated back in high school versus the sometimes lacking spiritual disciplines I practice now. But I believe this moment of humility was meaningless if I do not follow it up with action.
I want to be a spiritual lefty – not in order to gain right standing with God, but because he has already declared me righteous because of the perfect sacrifice in Christ alone.
May my spiritual disciplines come out of the overflow of a thankful and transformed heart – and as a result, make me a lefty.