Thursday, September 19, 2013

Go Hard or Go Home

“I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.” 2 Timothy 4: 7-8

I have to admit it: I love sports! I especially love the NHL (hockey), the NFL (football) and college football. And I have always played and loved to watch soccer (futbol). The grace, power, skill, speed and intelligence of the players combined with the mental and physical determination and perseverance it takes to compete at such high levels compel me to watch even when my favorite teams are not involved. And nothing is better than the play-offs: go hard or go home; where one game, one second, one play, one point, one hit or one mistake make the difference between moving forward toward the goal or going home for a long and depressing off-season.

Sports can be a positive and rewarding experience on so many levels. Individually it teaches us to master ourselves, achieve success past our self-perceived limitations, to strive for a goal. Collectively, it teaches us the value of teamwork, communication and selflessness. No wonder St. Paul uses sports in his letters as an analogy for the Christian walk.

Yet more and more throughout the world, it seems that on some level, with more than a few people, sports has become our new religion—we have our cathedrals (stadiums), our vestments (team jerseys in team colors), our hymns (team fight songs), our liturgy (pep rally, tailgating, season ticket seats, post-game dinner), liturgical seasons (off-season, pre-season, regular season, post-season), choirs (marching bands), rituals (wearing the same shirt every game or sitting in the same seat, etc.)—you get the idea…and in the most negative vein, we even have violence being perpetrated in the name of sports—beating up people that support other teams simply because they root for the other team.

As the victors are rewarded the ultimate prizes—the Vince Lombardi Trophy or Lord Stanley’s Cup, the crowd screams in unison and delirious frenzy. The trophies are handled by tuxedo-donned men with white gloves and the victors cradle the prize, caress it…even kiss it.

For what?

A fleeting feeling of accomplishment. A temporary experience of greatness that will pass into memory or forgotten all together more quickly than it took to come into reality. How many people reading this know off-hand who won Super Bowl XIII without looking it up on Google? Maybe a handful. But even then, how many of those few could name all of the players and coaches from that winning team?

It does take an immense amount of hard work, natural ability, drive, perseverance, determination and grit to win a championship of any kind, that’s for sure. And I have nothing but admiration and respect for those people who are able to accomplish something that I never will or who are great at something that I won’t. In fact, I believe that God has endowed us with this desire for greatness. We all want to be great at something. We all want to prove ourselves, our worth, our abilities for a sense of accomplishment, or for others to affirm us, or to be remembered and not forgotten.

But the desire that God places in us for greatness cannot be measured by what we DO, but rather by who we ARE.

We are great because our God is great! And deep down, whether we know it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not, we desire to be like Him. What does this mean? It means to love others without condition, to be humble in our own estimation, to pick up the basin and the towel and wash one another’s feet, to lower oneself so as to raise others, to become all things to all people, and ultimately, to die to ourselves so that others may live! When we begin to live in this reality and with this purpose, we will surely live lives of greatness, not just for a few moments, minutes or months, but for all time. That’s what it means to be on God’s team!

Dear Jesus, my heart desires to be like You in all things. Although I am imperfect and not capable of being on Your team, You still picked me, chose me and it is You that will enable and equip me to answer Your call. Thank you for wanting me and for loving me into a life of greatness. Amen.