“For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:10
If you’ve ever seen the 1986 movie “Hoosiers”, about a small-town high school basketball team, you might recall there was a rather obscure character in the story by the name of Ollie McLellan. The story takes place in a tiny community in rural Indiana back in the early 1950’s where Coach Norman Dale (played by Gene Hackman) was hired to coach the team. Despite much resistance within the community to his unusual coaching style, Coach Dale nevertheless succeeded in taking the team all the way to the state championship where they defeated one of the largest high school teams in the state.
There is a scene early in the movie where on Coach Dale’s first day on the job he is trying to get acquainted with the ragtag group of players on the team, of which there were only seven. Going around to each one he asked for their name and what position they played. When he got to Ollie, a clumsy little short guy, Ollie responded that he was really the team’s manager, he only suited up for practice and to warm the bench during the games. “I’m too short,” he explained, “I ain’t no good,” as his teammates chuckled.
It has been said that the one test of a person’s strength is that person’s knowledge of his or her weakness. I would add that it is also a test of a person’s strength that the person be willing to admit his or her weakness. Ollie’s strength, as it turned out, was much more than taking care of the team’s uniforms and warming the bench; his real strength was in admitting, “I’m too short, I ain’t no good.” The test came at the very end of one of the critical games after someone fouled out leaving only four players on the floor. In goes Ollie, the only sub, who immediately got fouled. Miraculously Ollie sunk his free-throw to win the game, advancing them to the state tournament. It was his moment of glory.
I’ve watched “Hoosiers” dozens of times over the years, it being one of my all-time favorite movies. But it has only been in recent years that I have come to fully appreciate Ollie, maybe from recalling all those times when I too have been “too short,” and “ain’t no good.” Except, unlike Ollie, I refused to admit it. “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” says the Apostle Paul. That’s because when we admit we are weak, allowing space for God to fill us with His power, then we are stronger than we could ever be on our own. And that’s exactly what happened with Ollie McLellan.