Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
My son, Mac, was a member of the first football team his high school ever had. Two years ago Mac, with his usual passion for life; tried out for the inaugural season of the Summit Academy Dragon Football Team and was chosen as a tenth grader to play varsity football.
We went to every game, hauling my parents and usually my sister along. Sitting in bleachers, tailgating like we were at the Big House. The females among the family having no idea what we were watching but keeping an eye out (and a prayer for) #51. Rain, wind, heat and snow showers. From Riverview to Flint two hours away and everywhere in between. We only missed one game, when Mac was too sick with strep throat to play. That was the only game the team won that season.
Last year we were there again for season two. Still eating too much in those stands, yelling ourselves hoarse and now armed with cowbells and special stadium seat cushions. All wearing those Summit Dragon hoodies with “SMITH” “51" on the back. Proud of our boy.
This year my son answered God’s call and went to Thailand over the summer for almost three weeks on a mission trip. He told his coaches last February he was going and that he’d be starting back to conditioning late. He knew he’d have to ride the bench for two games to make up for being out of the country. No problem.
The night before he left the head coach called our home to tell Mac that if he was going to Thailand, he better reconsider playing football. He told Mac that he lacked commitment to the team and maybe he’d better just drop out now. Mac handled him politely and told him “Ok Coach. I’m going to Thailand.”
Mom wasn’t so calm. I called the coach who told me he wasn’t impressed with Mac’s commitment and felt that the mission trip was a bad reflection on his attitude toward the team. Told me that he saw no point in Mac joining the team upon his return. Told me he didn’t care how I felt or if I thought a night before departure call was out of line. “I don’t care what you think.”
Mac left for Thailand the next day. I contacted the school administration who assured me that coach was now being considered for dismissal based on his actions and behavior toward me when I called him to speak to him. To his credit, the coach called the Mr. the next day to explain he’d had a bad day at work.
So Mac went to Thailand and ministered to several hundred kids. Worked with the local church. Talked about his Jesus.
He came home and told us what he and God had worked out about football.
You see, Mac is a student leader for Fuel, our church’s Junior High ministry on Monday nights. Coach won’t let him work at Fuel over the football season.
Mac likes football.
Mac loves Jesus.
He can’t work for a man who doesn’t see things the way he does. God first. God all.
Everything else is just bells and whistles for Mac.
He wants to concentrate on other things, he tells me.
He wants to work hard on his grades during his senior year. He wants to go to his youth group Bible study on Tuesday nights. He wants to work with those Fuelers on Mondays.
For the last two years he’s been at football every night, come home tired, dirty and beaten up and then done homework until midnight when he’d pass out from exhaustion. He’d be there for every practice and every game. He was always on time, suited up and ready to work. He kept his grades up and joined the National Honor Society. He had the highest G.P.A. on the Dragon football squad. He was named a scholar athlete and awarded a division medal.
So this year Mac and God decided that football was done for him. With it goes varsity status in his senior year. With it goes the colleges that have been scouting him and offering him scholarships to play.
Now he’s just another senior who finds his glory in junior high kids on Monday nights instead of under the lights on a Friday or Saturday night.
No senior year Homecoming game for Mac.
No more roaring crowds or jerseys on game day.
I was torn inside about it. I trust Mac’s heart and yet I worried about what he was giving up. His goodness almost hurt me. I wanted him to grab more for himself, be more selfish.
Then this morning on the way to work the Christian station I listened to highlighted a football player. Don’t ask me his name. They talked about how he stood on a field after winning a Superbowl game and realized, this was nothing. How he won the highest award at the thing to which he’d committed his life and at that moment he found himself yearning for Jesus. How at that moment he wanted to find himself in God’s glory and then decided to walk away and return to the Jesus of his childhood and live to redeem the days he’d wasted.
My son is not quite seventeen years old.
How wise he is.
How good he is.
How proud I am.
Mac will never look back on his glory days; because he will awaken to a new day of glory every morning.
God, give me a heart like that.