Thursday, October 30, 2008

Playing to Our Potential

You may have seen the pics. to the left on my wife's blog, whitefamilyof6. Yes, those are my sexy legs in the knee-high, maroon soccer socks, which are not quite knee-high, because I don't wear size 10-11 youth socks; its all in good fun. And, yes, that's my soccer team, The Black Racers. The origin of our team's name is not important, but I'm proud of it, because its our name.
Last year, as coach of Big Bend Bass, I found myself downing a handfull of Motrin and a Diet Coke chaser after every practice. I was proud of last years team; the Big Bend Bass always got their worm--we were undefeated in the regular season! But, coaching a group of 4-6 year olds took its toll on my patience. If you have no idea where I'm coming from, pay a visit to your local pre-k or kindegarten class and imagine trying to get those little angles to stand in a straight line while there's three soccer balls not two feet away from them, begging to be kicked, and orange cones, which clearly look like objects that you should pick up and throw, all around them. They all know that they're out there to play soccer; so, "Why," they must have thought, "are we standing in a line waiting for instructions." While it was been best to let them get out on the field and learn by experience, the imaginary soccer field (no lines and only one goal) didn't help.
This year the soccer league was sponsored by our county recreation department (you've done a great job, Joe), who changed the lowest age bracket from 4-6 year olds to 4-8 year olds. Its been so much less stressful to have a few older kids who can follow instructions and set the tone for our practices and games--they're great leaders (way to go Regan, Carlyn, and Lindsay). We also have a legitimate soccer field to practice on now, complete with lines and two goals.
Now, I'm confident that I've picked out some of the best players in our league. Jacob is bound to be an athletic super-star when he grows up; no one in the league can match his speed. The three ladies mentioned above will take on any three boys from another team and outscore them; any time, any place. Cole is small but tenacious. Heleman and Elias are turning out to be great goalies. And, Caeli and Jonah are getting started while their pretty young, so they're going to have quite an advantage in the next few years. I believe we have the best team in our division. So, why did we loose every game from the beginning of the season for three straight weeks! I know, its all in good fun, and the scores don't really matter at this point (the ranking is determined by the final tournament). But why couldn't we win a game? The kids were happy just to get out there and play. They had great attitudes (which I encouraged above all), but I could tell that they were slightly disappointed by the outcome. And, to be honest, as fun as it all was, so was I.
It's hard to put my finger on why my team kept on loosing, but what I can say for sure is that they didn't do what they were capable of doing. That is..., until last week. Last Friday we shut out our opponents 2-0. The ball stayed on the opponent's side of the field for the majority of the game, and we had about 10 shots on the goal. Then, on this past Tuesday, we won again--3-1. Regan scored two goals and Jacob scored the other; the game looked pretty much like the previous one, except that one of the players from the other team took an unstoppable shot at my son, Elias, who gave a valiant effort as the starting goalie. The Black Racers, my team, is finally playing to their potential.
Its hard to be truly disappointed when these 4-8 year olds display such excitement, good sportsmanship, great attitudes, and self-sacrifice (when they willingly sat out for a substitution, for instance). Win or loose, they are always smiling after the game. They run hard, they have fun, and they're learning important lessons. I often tell them, even after a loss, that they should be proud of the way they played; and, with a few exceptions, I mean that whole-heartedly. My kids are great.
But, there's nothing like the feeling that we all get--myself and the players--when they play well and win. The parents are cheering, the kids are beaming with pride, and my heart swells with delight. I guess I'm so excited, because I know that they've played like they're capable of playing.
I wonder if Christ feels the same way about His church. When we act like my 4-8 year olds, with all the excitement, good attitudes, good sportsmanship, self-sacrifice, growth, and smiles, does He take the same kind of delight in our service--whether we're "successful" in ministry or not? Sure, we didn't do what we were capable of doing--for any number of reasons--but we did our best to follow his example of humility (Philippians 2:4). Does he still take delight in that? I wonder if he's equally frustrated by a church who has trouble following directions, has bad attitudes, fails to grow, and draws in the sand during the middle of the game (figuratively, of course :).
But how excited He must be to celebrate with His church when she plays to her potential and follows His example along the way. What rejoicing must take place at the right hand of God! How the heavens must shake with the roar of the crowd!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3; NIV

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 1:20-21; NIV


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