Coming Up Short

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“Coming Up Short,” New Era, Sept. 2003, 10

Coming Up Short

Though life isn’t fair, give it your best shot. The Lord will make up the difference.

Whenever my older brother got to stay up late or he got more ice cream than I did, I said, “That’s not fair.” Then, and at many other times in my life, the answer always came back: “Life isn’t fair.”

In junior high, I didn’t think life was fair. I was short—not just a little below average, but officially vertically challenged. One day my entire grade lined up by height for a picture. I was at the end of the line—the short end.

Despite my height, I loved basketball and was determined to make the team. As a gym full of boys began running drills to win their places on the squad, I hoped my many hours of practice would pay off. The coaches stood in the middle of the gym, observing us and taking notes on their clipboards. At my size, I just prayed they would notice me.

After warm-ups, the head coach blew his whistle and explained our first shooting drill. He handed me a ball. I was one of the first to dribble from half court and pull up inside the three-point line for a jump shot. I knew everyone was watching; my shaking hands reminded me with every dribble. I stopped at the top of the key, jumped, and let go of the ball. I hoped that it would at least hit the rim. The ball rolled around the iron and dropped through the net.

Sooner than I wanted, it was my turn again. Again my shot found its way through the hoop. Through the next rotation, my luck continued. The returning center of the team noticed me and decided to help out an underdog. He began calling attention to me right before each of my next shots. Thankfully, I kept making my shots.

At the end of the day, when the list of those who made first cuts was posted, my name was there. I had just climbed the first leg of my Mount Everest.

After a few more days of tense nerves and early-morning drills, another cut was posted. I made it past my second hurdle. With only one or two cuts left, my chances were getting better, but my competition was stiffer.

At the end of the week, tryouts were over. I tried to remain calm as I walked to the coaches’ office to see if I made the team. My name was missing from the list.

The assistant coach, who was also my science teacher, pulled me aside. “You’re a good little ball player. You’ve got a lot of potential.” His compliments didn’t help my disappointment. “It’s hard to cut people. It’s just that right now you don’t have the size to play for the team. Maybe next year.”

Why me? One of my dreams crashed, and it wasn’t because I didn’t try or practice. It was because of something out of my control. Life just didn’t seem fair.

Why Me?

Although I have read the Book of Mormon several times, only recently did I realize how unfair Ammon’s success could have felt to Aaron, Ammon’s brother. They and other Nephites went to teach the Lamanites. Yet while Ammon was defending the king’s flocks, being overcome by the Spirit, and baptizing King Lamoni and his people, Aaron and his companions struggled. The Lamanites “had cast them out, and had smitten them, and had driven them from house to house, and from place to place, even until they had arrived in the land of Middoni; and there they were taken and cast into prison, and bound with strong cords, and kept in prison for many days” (Alma 20:30).

Think of all the reasons Aaron had to ask, “Why me?” Ammon was seeing great success while Aaron had seen only failure and prison walls. Even Aaron’s deliverance from prison was another of Ammon’s successes. Aaron’s life wasn’t fair.

Despite the unfairness, Aaron showed no signs of resentment. Out of prison, he immediately resumed his missionary service with the attitude of asking what the Lord wanted him to do. Then the Lord blessed him. Aaron taught and baptized Lamoni’s father, the king over all of the Lamanites, and his household.

I realized, to a small extent, that my situation was like Aaron’s. Others around me had great success, but for reasons beyond my control, I didn’t. I had a choice: I could wallow in self-pity, asking, “Why me?” or, like Aaron, I could be patient and trust in the Lord.

I’ve realized that, though my life isn’t fair at times, I can cast my cares on the Savior. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “The Atonement will not only help us overcome our transgressions and mistakes, but in His time, it will resolve all inequities of life—those things that are unfair which are the consequences of circumstance or others’ acts and not our own decisions” (“Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer,” Ensign, May 1997, 54). When I turn to Christ, my life doesn’t suddenly become fair. But as I strive to be like Him in my unfair circumstances, He helps me not to become bitter and even to love an unfair world.

[Mortal ‘whys’]

Elder Neal A. Maxwell

“Certain mortal ‘whys’ are not really questions at all but are expressions of resentment. Other ‘whys’ imply that the trial might be all right later on but not now, as if faith in the Lord excluded faith in His timing. Some ‘why me’ questions, asked amid stress, would be much better as ‘what’ questions, such as, ‘What is required of me now?’ or, to paraphrase Moroni’s words, ‘If I am sufficiently humble, which personal weakness could now become a strength?’ (see Ether 12:27).”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 22–23.

Photography by John Luke, posed by models

Painting by Gary L. Kapp

The Greatest of All, by Del Parson