A popular T-shirt reads: “Soccer is life. The rest is just details.” I would have worn this T-shirt when I was growing up. Athletics brought identity, order and discipline to my life. And the discipline I learned there, I brought to life’s other pursuits.
Cut to today. My kids wear this T-shirt. And in spite of the Christian path I long for them to travel, spring and fall soccer often takes precedence on Sundays. I have observed that we are not alone in this in Northern Virginia. I hear other families asking when they can fit church in, given the soccer schedule.
I don’t want my kids to think that all of life is soccer. I want them to hear the promise that Jesus is life. Yet, soccer does have a lot to teach them, as it did me. Soccer speaks to them in a way they can hear. Does God, who speaks to each of us in our own language, speak soccer? When I look at His 10 basic life instructions, I think so:
X. Do not covet. Be a gracious loser and a more gracious winner.
IX. Do not lie. Play by the rules. Victory is more bitter than defeat if you don’t.
VIII. Do not steal. Credit for the win belongs to the whole team, don’t take it for yourself.
VII. Do not commit adultery/ honor your commitments. Take your team responsibilities seriously. Bring your best to every practice and every game.
VI. Do not murder. The spirit is fragile. Keep it alive in yourself, your teammates and your opponents. Help them up when they fall, and don’t run up the score.
V. Honor your father and mother. It is harder to watch your child take a penalty kick than it ever was to take one yourself. Only parents can know this.
IV. Remember the Sabbath. Bodies, like souls, need rest days.
III. Do not use God’s name in vain. Honor God’s name with your play, for it is by His grace that you are gifted to play.
II. Have no idols. Play for the fun, exercise and competition, but not for the trophy.
I. Have no other gods. It is, after all, only a game. The Glory is always His.
Yes, I am convinced that God speaks soccer. He speaks to my kids as He creates soccer and life with them. He has high expectations. I hope they will come to trust Him as the Perfect Coach – one who has a no-fail game plan and confidence in them to execute it. One who stands by them, win or lose.
This kind of coaching will inspire their practice, dedication and discipline, as a joy and not a duty. And isn’t that, after all, the essence of discipleship? I trust that they, too, will bring it to life’s other pursuits.
My current favorite T-shirt shows a bearded man with a crown of thorns diving to prevent a goal. It reads: “Jesus saves.” Now that is life!