Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
My daughter made the middle school field hockey team. In our town, this is only the middle school team’s second year of existence and my daughter's first time ever playing it. Nearly the entire team of girls are brand-spanking new to the sport. Prior moving back east to New Jersey, we had no real familiarity at all with the sport. Forced by dad to try something new, she made the team and we now have one more thing in our busy fall schedule.
This past Tuesday was her first game, so I traveled over to Pequannock in between work and a church council meeting to watch it. It was fun to see the excitement and energy of the girls—Carolina blue jerseys, flashy mouthguards, and colorful field hockey sticks in hand. After only a short week of practice, they were ready to go. They were bouncing up and down on the sideline, shrieking and cheering each other on. But I have to be honest, I had no idea what was happening. Granted, I do understand the basic concept; hit the ball into the other team’s net. However, that is where my knowledge of field hockey comes to an abrupt and embarrassing end. The best I could surmise is that if hockey and soccer had a baby, it would be field hockey. There appeared to be nuances and rules from each sport playing out on the bumpy, high-grass field. Fortunately, I could tell by the chatter of fellow parents on the sidelines, I wasn’t alone. We often had questions. Many times during the game, the whistle would blow, and the two referees would, in some arm motion toward each other, signal an infraction or penalty. Don’t ask me what it was or when it happened. I still have no clue. Before her second game tomorrow, I will have to find a “Field Hockey for Dummies” video on YouTube. It was fun to watch her out there, but it is tough to fully enjoy the game when you’re not sure what’s going on.
This experience gave me flashbacks to days when my son and I would play a card game of Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh. No matter how many times I would read the instructions or the information on the cards, I had no idea what was happening. Despite his best efforts to explain the strategy of the game, it still made little sense to me. I would be winning one minute and getting whooped the next. Just when I thought I started to get things figured out, my son would inform me of some rule that would prevent me from utilizing a certain card or attack mode. On the cusp of what I through was about to be a victorious move, I would quickly find myself defeated and sent tail-spinning back to a state of frustrated cluelessness. Yes indeed, it is tough to enjoy the game when you’re not sure what’s going on.
Sometimes life can feel this way.
Out of control. Frustrating. Chaotic.
Confusing. Peppered with penalties.
Exacerbated, we throw up our hands and exclaim, "What is going on here?"
But it shouldn’t surprise us.
Jesus tells us, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) There will be so many times in life when we feel like we’re playing a game without knowing the rules. Things will happen that will leave us shocked. Events will take place that will leave us scratching our heads. The good word of Jesus is that no matter the confusion of “the game,” He will always be taking care of us, always watching out for us. Trials and temptations will continue to come; but we put our faith and trust in the One who is bigger than them all. This coming Sunday, you’ll hear this reading from Isaiah 55:8-9, which tell us to trust in the One who is all-knowing and all-powerful. Every challenge and crisis, or “trial and sorrow” that comes your way provides the opportunity for us to confidently trust God more deeply. The Psalmist knew this when he declared, “It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.” (Psalm 18:32)
“Winning in the game of life can only be assured if we trust God as the Mastermind.” (unknown)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Pastor Steve Vera