And They Will Know We Are Christians By Our … Slidetackling?

Sports will always play a significant roll in my life.  Whether it’s bonding with my family over some Publix subs before a Miami Dolphins football game, or being coached by my dad on the sidelines of a stressful soccer match

… sports will always have a special place in my heart.

I love it all; the competition, the passion, the hard work, the determination, the adrenaline, the teamwork, the winning, and the sacrifice.  When we were kids, my sister Melissa and I would turn anything and everything into a sport.  For example, when Mom wanted us to put the dirty laundry away, you can bet your bottom dollar that we would roll those clothes into tight balls and see how many hamper “shots” we could make by the time the buzzer went off.

However, sport can also bring out the worst in someone.  I’m sure one way or another, we’ve all experienced it.  I’ve heard plenty of football fans curse and condemn their home teams after a big loss (and too many beers), I’ve listened to parents and coaches fight with a referee because of a terrible call, and I’ve personally witnessed one of my teammates getting tackled by an ill-intentioned opponent during a soccer game (which led to her having a torn ACL).

Having said that, I am no saint either.  I’ve made quite a few “questionable plays” on the field, I’ve cursed at a ref (under my breath because I didn’t have the guts to do it to his face), and, yes, I’ve even cheated by pretending that my team didn’t kick the ball out of bounds when we totally did. Whoops.

So, as a Christian athlete … where does Jesus fit in?  How can I love like Christ and play a sport at the same time?  I think the key is examining the heart.  The Bible says that man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.  The heart is the “why” behind everything we do.  It’s where our motivations and intentions begin to take root and flourish.  So when I play soccer, why do I play?  Do I play to satisfy my own ego or do I play for a greater purpose?  Do I try to set an example in love and truth on the field or do I leave my values and integrity on the sidelines?

I’ll be honest with you guys.  I can’t sing or play guitar, but I can kick the heck out of a soccer ball.  I can’t dance or paint with watercolors, but I can surely sprint down a field as if my life depended on it.

I know that when I step out onto the field, Jesus steps out there with me.  He doesn’t get banned from the bleachers, He doesn’t get left in the car, and He doesn’t disapprove of my love for the game (unless it becomes greater than my love for Him).

So, when I go in for a 50/50 ball, you will never see me cringe in fear or apologize for using my body’s strength to fight for possession.  I will face my opponents head on, and I will play with passion, vigor, and intensity.  When a teammate messes up, I will show grace and mercy because no one is perfect and we all make mistakes.  When my teammates succeed, I will build them up and affirm them because I am called to be an encourager.  When an opponent fouls me, I will shake her hand with sincerity, and I will show her forgiveness because I am commanded to love those around me.

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My faith and my competitive spirit do not have to contradict each other.  God can be glorified in any setting if I simply invite Him into it.  It’s my choice whether or not I want to represent Him.  I can give in to the many pressures of the “mainstream sports culture,” or I can decide to stand firm in who God created me to be as His daughter. (His loud, energetic, aggressive, competitive, compassionate, silly, kind, faith filled, and athletic daughter.)

As a captain or as a bench warmer, I have purposed in my heart to love, to serve, and to play with the best of my ability.  Will I screw up? Definitely.  I’m bound to make a bad tackle and eventually lose my cool on the field.  I’m human, so that stuff will happen, but God is big enough to take even those messed up moments and turn them into something beautiful … and I love Him for that.

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The FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) has a Competitors Creed that sums up my thoughts in this blog post quite nicely, and I stand by it wholeheartedly.  Check it out by clicking this link:

Author: Sam Stokesberry

“I have come to know a God Who has a soft spot for rebels, Who recruits people like the adulterer David, the whiner Jeremiah, the traitor Peter, and the human-rights abuser Saul of Tarsus. I have come to know a God Whose Son made prodigals the heroes of His stories and the trophies of His ministry.” ― Philip Yancey

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