It happens every year. My friends who typically discuss normal things like weather, movies and politics become people on a mission. People who yell at televisions, radios and their ESPN app and post statements like "HOW ABOUT SOME DEFENSE?" or "ONE SPRAINED ANKLE RUINED MY FANTASY DRAFT!!!" to their social media feeds.
It's football season.
I have tried to understand and appreciate football, but I just don't get it. I blame my circumstances. As we all know, South Carolina has no pro team. My college had no division sports -- the most competitive games happening on a Saturday afternoon were ultimate Frisbee. My dad made a valiant effort to explain the game while introducing my sisters and me to the New England Patriots, but if they were playing a team that had a prettier color uniform, we'd root for them. When my friends convinced me to join their "fantasy league," I had to enlist the help of the seventh-graders to set up my draft picks.
Still, it is football season, so in the midst of tailgating, stadium seating, bridge bowls and halftime shows, I'd like to propose a question: What if we approached our faith with the same fervor as we do football? I think there are a few things we'd notice right away:
Never miss a local story.
There would be better branding. Sports mascots are fun, and we have not exhausted ways to show them off. Thanks to shrewd marketers and the Internet, I'm pretty sure there's nothing that can't be branded with the logo of your favorite team. T-shirts are too easy. For the serious fan there are coffee tumblers, bobble-head dolls and tattoos. I even found a Husker Barbie doll at a thrift store last weekend. People love to show pride in their team and surround themselves with reminders.
Look around your home. Is your faith as obvious as your fanaticism? If your kids can find a pennant faster than they can find a Bible, a little rearranging might be in order.
We'd see intense participation. While visiting my friends Gayle and Sarah in Atlanta last year, we made plans to catch up at a local restaurant that evening. Gayle explained that Sarah might be a little late because Notre Dame had played that afternoon so Sarah had to take a nap. "Was she playing too?" I asked, confused.
"No, but watching the game takes a lot out of her," Gayle explained.
Sarah showed up exhausted (even after her nap) from yelling at her TV, pacing and offering advice that the players would never actually hear. Even though her team was in Indiana and she was in Georgia, she was present in spirit.
When we attend church, are we fully present? Do we follow what's being said and done or are we dozing in our seats, just waiting for it to be over?
"But that's different," you might say. "Church is kind of long and boring." This summer, a camp speaker answered that very comment with the accusation, "Well maybe you're boring!" He was quick to continue that if we found church boring, we needed to learn more about what was going on. We needed to take the time to prepare ourselves for what we'd hear and spend time thinking about it -- not just sit and wait for it to be over. From what I gather, we enjoy a game more when we're ready to watch it -- knowing what the team's stats are and how they've performed so far.
Church on Sunday (or Saturday night) also takes some pre-gaming. Don't just stumble in -- prepare by reading the Scriptures for that Sunday, attending a Bible study during the week or reading a reflection in a magazine or online.
There's nothing wrong with getting excited about football. Or soccer or hockey or curling or whatever you enjoy. Just be sure your first passion is your soul and your God.
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