Two of the things that serve big roles in my life are my faith and sports. Each defines me, albeit in different amounts, yet each does to a certain extent.
I grew up deeply immersed with each alongside as I progressed through life. I have attended church since birth and been involved with sports in different capacities since my toddler years. Both have had their ups and downs in my life, and both have been lost in the shuffle at some point.
I have devoted hundreds, maybe even thousands, of hours of my time to events pertaining to each.
We have teams in both: people pulling for us, and willing and able to offer encouragement, accountability, and maybe even some advice.
And we also have someone competing against us, someone waiting to capitalize on our every single mistake for their benefit and the disapproval of those who are alongside us. We have someone at all times whispering thoughts of doubt, neglect, and discouragement for the sake of hindering our actions. There might even be that one heckler in the stands taunting us in an attempt to attract a reaction we wouldn’t normally act upon.
Whether we like it or not, in life or in an athletic venue, someone is going up against us in hopes of us being defeated.
I’m sure many of you are the same way. It seems that our culture today prides itself on its ability to breed the best athletes, prepare the finest physical specimens and mold the next Michael Jordan’s of the world. To do so, countless amounts of time must be exerted to attain the aspirations set forth in front of us.
The same is true with faith. Most attend at least one church activity a week in an effort to grow in our relationship with God, be immersed in the words of the Bible and become the best Christian we can possibly be. Time must also be a factor when doing this. In order to grow in any sort of relationship, time is necessary.
Some people even feel called to pursue a career ministering to others to help them grow spiritually.
With all the similarities aforementioned, I find it striking that the two, when incorporated together, do not seem to mesh well.
There seems to be something within us that negates the other, as if tossing it to the curb for the duration of competition and picking it back up following the final whistle.
Think about it: all the tactics that our spiritual foe uses to hinder our faith can be found in the athletic arena.
Thoughts of doubt, hate and mockery tend to fill our brains in competition and can be materialized through our actions during competition in ways we don’t even realize.
That is why when I witness something apart from the norm that I truly appreciate it.
I witnessed that something last weekend at a high school football playoff game.
I was running the first down marker for a playoff game that was coming down to the wire.
Abilene Cooper had just scored and was up 25-22 with 2:21 left in the game. But Mansfield Timberview came roaring back and scored a touchdown with 16 seconds left to cap a game-winning drive.
Immediately after the game while the Timberview band was playing the fight song for the victorious Wolves, and every single one of the defeated Cooper players were lined up along the 50-yard line facing the crowd and Timberview team, respecting the victor.
Simply respecting the team that beat them by standing, the Cougars displayed integrity and champion-esque qualities despite the score.
Respecting others and showing integrity are keys to our Christian walk as well. The Cougars achieved a rare combination that warmed my heart. They integrated a combination of faith and sports that needs to be done more today.
And it doesn’t require radical acts. Simply respecting and congratulating people can go a long way.