Ecclesiastes 3: 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
Oguchi Onyewu is loved by American soccer fans. A son of Nigerian immigrants, Onyewu rose through youth soccer ranks in Washington DC, to College soccer at Clemson and then both an international career playing over 70 matches for the U.S., and a professional career in Europe and the MLS in Philedelphia.
At 6’ 4”, Onyewu was a formidable centre back defender and hardly a welcome site to opposing strikers. He “is loved by Americans everywhere for being a no fear, whatever it takes defender, willing to risk it all for club and country out on the soccer field.”[i] However, I read something far more impressive about Onyewu in the same article, entitled: For the Love of the Game: Five Athletes We Can All Learn From.
In 2009, after the U.S. team knocked off world #1 Spain in the Confederation Cup, Onyewu was offered a place on world class AC Milan. He was the first American to play in Italy in over a decade and the first ever to play on this club. But after just one appearance for AC Milan, he injured his knee playing for the National team and missed the rest of the season. Both he and the club worked hard to get back to health the following year. AC Milan signed Onyewu through 2012 and wanted to extend their appreciation to him for his hard work by adding a year in 2013. He agreed to it but wanted to make up for not being available all season by taking a pay cut in that final season. In fact, he asked to play the 2012/13 season for free!
“You just don’t get that anymore in professional sports. Onyewu is a class act who loves the game too much to give it up. Along with his love of the game comes his desire to play and play often.”[ii]
Where does our love of play come from? No one had to teach me to love sports. In fact, I can guarantee that because I was an oddity in my house. My parents, while active, had no real understanding or interest in sports. My siblings enjoyed being active, but I was on my own if I wanted to kick a soccer ball around or play a game of tennis. My earliest memories are of creating a game with whatever was around me, whether it was a stick and a stone, or an actual ball. I have always, and will always, love to play! I know this is a God-given characteristic and is therefore part of HIS personality, because we are made in God’s image.
While we are encouraged to work, and work hard, we are also encouraged to rest, and to play. Leviticus 23 is God’s prescript for his people’s lives. Through Moses he instructed them to: work hard for six days (vs. 3), and rest on the seventh day (vs. 3). He then laid out five different festivals (another word for parties), that he wanted his people to celebrate. I hardly imagine a group of people sitting around moping. I picture people with smiles on their faces as they ate, drank, danced and played, all the while praising their heavenly father who had given them all they have. I also picture God looking down with a beaming smile on his face.
Zechariah 8 foretells the restoration of Jerusalem and there we read: “the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing there” (vs. 5). God wants us to play, but we can’t overindulge in play. In King Solomon’s words: I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. (Eccles. 2:1). No, there is a specific time for play, and when we find that balance between work, rest and play, we can experience the joy and peace of the Lord. There is: 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance (Eccles. 3:4).