Watching the players in the World Cup reminds me of one of my most embarrassing moments involving my college's soccer team -- and my friend Ann failing to look out for me.
Ann had invited me over to her house for an evening cookout her fiance and his family. Despite the fact that her fiance was the soccer coach, I was not intimidated by hanging out with him (taken) and his family (from Detroit). So I rolled out of bed from a nap, threw on jeans and a T-shirt and went to what I thought would be a quaint family gathering. What Ann failed to mention was that this was a quaint family gathering with her fiance, his family and his entire team.
I don't know what it is about soccer players. Maybe it's that, unlike many sports, they don't wear helmets so you can actually see their faces as they casually push hair out of their eyes with a savvy that Justin Bieber could never pull of. Maybe it's that they all have accents. Maybe I haven't gotten over my crush on the coach from "Bend it Like Beckham." In short, I wished I had dressed differently for the evening.
Ann, being blissfully engaged, was oblivious to the fact that the scenery in her Ohio home had dramatically improved, and I'm not talking about the river cleanup. She was excitedly introducing me to her future in-laws when one of the soccer players, a graduate theology student with dirty blond hair and blue eyes asked, "Who's your friend?" So I extended my hand and said brightly, "I'm Alison's friend, Ann." Yes. I forgot my own name. And introduced myself as Ann.
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I was mortified. But it served as an important lesson to me: There will always be moments when you are caught off-guard by life and literally cannot think of what to say, even if it's your own name. Sometimes it's an innocent problem and you merely embarass yourself, but sometimes it's serious. The question, when you're left speechless regarding sin, is simply this: Who are you really hurting?
One of my favorite illustrations of this is in Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre." If you haven't read the book, you should. But allow me to spoil the climax for you. Jane Eyre has fallen in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers he is married. He tries to convince her to run away with him anyway. She wants to, and he asks who, exactly, they would be hurting?
Jane's reply is so eloquent that you should read the whole bit, but let me summarize. She acknowledges at the moment, her feelings have completely carried her away. She wants to be with the man she loves to the point where she describes herself as "mad." But she firmly states, "I will keep the law of God, sanctioned by men... Laws and principles are not for times when there is no temptation; they are for moments as this... If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?"
Now, maybe it won't be as dramatic as a wealthy Englishman asking us to be his mistress, but we all encounter moments where we are at a loss as to the right answer. Our feelings may push us one way, even though we know deep down that way isn't a good idea. I re-read this passage often to remember that the law of God exists for one's well-being and the common good. In the end, it works out for Jane. And when we do what's right, it works out for us, too.
Alison Griswold is the director of Youth Ministry at St. Francis By the Sea Catholic Church and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/alisongriz.