Missing The Game

My oldest son has been playing soccer for about four years. Each year, the competition has gotten tougher. And each year, he’s gotten better. If he’s ever missed a practice in that four year span, I’ve forgotten about it. He has never missed a game. But there’s a first time for everything. In a couple of days, my son will miss his first soccer game.

Shortly after this season began we got word that there would be a few games played on Sundays. Sundays at 1:00.

He’s not going to miss these games because Sunday is the Sabbath. It isn’t (Acts 20:7; Colossians 2:16-23). And we’re not trying for some church perfect attendance award. I think that it’s okay to miss every now and then. But there are other reasons why he won’t be playing this Sunday.

Our church is about thirty minutes away from the fields where my son plays his games. I never look at my watch that much on Sunday mornings. But I always take a look when I’m standing in the parking lot. After everyone is gone, the conversations are over and my wife and I are trying to load the kids into the car, my watch usually tells me that it’s 12:15.

We could make it to the game on time. But it would probably mean that a few conversations would have to be cut short. And instead of a nice meal around our table, sometimes with guests, we would be stuffing sandwiches down our throats while speeding up the interstate.

I’m trying to teach my son the importance of slowing down. It’s good to be busy but only if you know when and how to step away. Between school, practices and games, our week can be pretty hectic. Sunday is a good day for us to slow down.

There’s something here to be learned about commitment too. My son made a commitment to his team. When he misses a game, the team suffers. But he made another commitment long before the one he made to his friends on his soccer team. He made a commitment to his church. He needs to be around the people there. He needs to worship with them. He needs to see men in their 80s standing up and singing songs to Jesus. And as he gets older, they’ll need him too (Hebrews 10:23-25).

But I’m also trying to teach my son how not to be a Pharisee. There’s a fine line here. So I’ll be doing my best to remind him that, under the new covenant, our Sabbath rest is found in a man, not a day (Hebrews 4:1-13). That’s why we can play outside and eat out on Sundays with a clean conscience. When he’s a little older, I’ll probably let him play in a game or two on a Sunday. Just as long as it’s not conflicting with his commitments to worship Jesus with his church family. As long as it’s not consuming his schedule.

This is just how it works for our family. A lot of families go to huge churches with services on Saturday nights. For them, Sunday games are no problem. Great! But that’s not the context my family lives in. In our situation, games at 1:00 on a Sunday would lead towards chaos. So we’re missing out.

But this is about more than just a day of the week. It’s about learning how to say no. We live in a culture where saying no to the sports gods is heresy. But everyone has to say no to something. Part of growing up is learning the right way to say no.

We’ve all been told that sports builds character. This is true but only if there is someone there to guide that character building. Otherwise the sport just becomes another idol. And the kid does become a character. Only not the kind of character that you would like to be around. Kids need someone who can remind them that there are things more important than sports. Someone to tell them that they will quit playing someday. And then what?

When he found out that he was missing his first game, my son wasn’t upset. He just couldn’t figure out why a game was scheduled on a Sunday. I didn’t really know how to explain it to him. Later on he told me that Sundays were for taking it easy. Taking it easy and worshiping Jesus with our friends.

I think that he already has it figured out.

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