I just finished watching the end of an incredibly exciting March Madness game between Notre Dame and Stephan F. Austin. In the last few minutes, SFA was up by 3 points and not giving up anything! The Fighting Irish indeed clawed their way back for one 2-point shot, and then, with a little more than one second on the clock, they tipped in a final shot to put them ahead with less than a second to go. SFA missed the buzzer-beater, and Irishmen everywhere jumped out of their seats.
I don't normally watch post-game interviews or coach's pep talks, but I was stranded on the treadmill at the gym, so I kept my eyes open. Head coach Mike Brey had an interesting look on his face as he addressed his Sweet-Sixteen-bound team. It was a look that I could tell his team didn't see all the time, but it was genuine nonetheless. I had seen this look myself from a high school softball coach.
It was a smile.
It took me a while to recognize it, maybe because in the past year, I saw Chip Kelly take the Eagles to a losing 6-9 record, and I saw the Phillies go through 3 managers in 3 years who gave up on the team only shortly after the fans did. As a fan from Philadelphia, I'm not used to seeing a lot of smiling coaches.
After Googling images of Mike Brey, I don't think anyone was used to seeing a lot of smiles from him either.
But that's how it goes in sports. When the game is intense, coaching is extreme. Why do they yell? Because, you know, they all yell.
Part of it is so they can be heard. Games get LOUD. But I have a feeling they would yell anyway. The adrenaline makes them raise their voices. They are focused on nothing but how to win the game. If those coaches could be out there on the field/court/diamond, they would be. They want to keep showing the players what to do. But at game time, they have to just trust that they have taught enough.
Then… the game is over. If the coach's team has pulled through, there is an huge amount of relief. It results in a smile.
Some say that God is your biggest cheerleader. But I think it is more accurate to consider Him like your coach. He has given you everything you need to succeed. (Hello, Holy Spirit!) He has even drafted for you the best player in the league! (Thank you, Jesus!) But He won't go on the field anymore, not since the days He walked with Adam, before sin.
Still, He calls to you from the sidelines. It's loud enough, but you may have trouble hearing it for two reasons:
1. Because the crowd noise drowns it out.
The people in the world are all saying different things, and all at the same time. That makes our world pretty noisy. Some of them might be yelling out advice. But the crowd doesn't know how you have been coached. They could be giving bad advice.
My oldest daughter had a soccer coach once who told the team not to listen to their parents while they were on the field, and instead to concentrate on her voice. She knew soccer, and also knew that we parents didn't. I'm sure it was hard for the girls to ignore their parents (… or maybe not!) but when they listened to the coach, they played better.
2. Because you are too focused on the game of life to listen.
Beyond the crowd noise is the noise in your own head. You try to remember every thing you did during practice. That's a good thing, but you only have a limited perspective. Formations on the field may require you to adjust your game plan. You can't always see the whole picture, but the coach can!
God is calling to you - telling you what to do - and whether you turn to the right or to the left, you will hear the voice behind you saying, "This is the way; walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21)
Are you listening for His coaching? Do you want to hear what He says, or do you want to do it your own way? Who knows more? The coach or the player? Who can see the bigger picture - the coach on the sidelines who has a full view of the defense, or the player on the line of scrimmage who might not be able to see over the guard?
How does He sound? Does He sound angry to you? Does that mean He's mad or even that you've done something wrong? Possibly, but more than likely, it's because He is so invested in what's going on, He's just trying to get you to hear. He wants you to win!
He's coaching you on to the end of the game. At the end of the game, nothing else can be done. Your game will end in one of two ways - you win or you lose - depending on which team you play for. If you have done a good job listening to your coach (this is assuming, of course, you are playing on His team, with Jesus!), you will hear at the end, "Well done."
The Bible doesn't say, but I totally believe you will see a smile on God's face, whatever that might look like. I can't even imagine, but then again, I haven't finished playing the game yet.
Tom Hanks tells us there's no crying I'm baseball, but I don't think we see a lot of smiling either. Not until the game is over. The celebration will be grand, and the rest will be sweet. I'm smiling already.
Passion Under Grace,