Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.Psalm 86:11 (NLT)
Shaquille O’Neal was one of the most dominant big men to play professional basketball. Standing at over seven feet tall, and weighing somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 pounds, Shaq (as he was nicknamed) could rule over any other center in the game. He was so big that he would simply move the other player out of the way so he could get right next to the rim for an easy, high percentage shot. Everyone knew how he played, yet were powerless to stop him. That is, until they found out his weakness.
Though Shaq dominated in every aspect of the center position, he couldn’t hit a free throw if his life depended on it. So, opposing teams simply began fouling Shaq any time he got the ball. The strategy came to be known as “Hack a Shaq;” and it worked. By the end of his career, Shaq only made 52.7 percent of his free throws. It is a horrible stat for a professional basketball player. In fact, this one fact has stuck to his reputation stronger than most of his other feats on the basketball court, and they were many.
Shaq hired numerous coaches solely to teach him how to shoot free throws. They showed him techniques. They showed him the proper stance. They taught him how to visualize the ball leaving his hand and going through the hoop. In practice, he got it. In games, there was no improvement. Practice did not translate to life. So, the Hack a Shaq strategy lived on.
Here we have the Psalmist asking God to “teach me your ways.” Captured in this statement is a realization that our ways are not perfect. In fact, they stink. The only One that knows, and can teach, how to lead a more perfect life is someone who is, well, perfect! Just as Shaq sought out experts in free throw shooting, we must turn to our Expert in how to live life.
However, there is a danger. Though we may ask for help in practice, (our private space) we must actually do the things God calls us to do in our real, everyday life. It’s not enough for Him to teach us not to lie, then make stuff up when we’re with our friends. It’s not enough to have Him tell us how important corporate worship is, and then be absent nearly every Sabbath. We must listen to our coach, and then employ His strategies in our lives.