1 John 4: 19 We love because he first loved us.
Nearly every child playing a sport dreams of playing at the highest level. Perhaps it’s playing in a World Cup Soccer final, or in the NCAA or international cricket or swimming or perhaps participating in the MLB World Series. What a life that would be; being revered, perhaps having all the money you need. Even many adult fans think that such athletes, who have attained the highest level in their sport, have the greatest possible life. But if you chat with any sports star, you will hear other stories. For many the joy is gone. Perhaps they are mired in politics, perhaps they have even been abused by coaches, the media or fans.
I watched a documentary, The Class of ’92, about 6 young men who grew up playing soccer together at Manchester United and achieved some of the highest prizes in 1999 by winning the league, the FA Cup and the European Cup. What could be better? But star David Beckham had made an error in the 1998 World Cup while playing for England and received a red card which likely caused England to exit the tournament early. After that he required an armed guard, he received bullets in the mail, and he saw his effigy burned from lampposts. It sure is easy to lose your love of the game when this happens.
Former star soccer player for the U.S. Women’s National team, Mia Hamm, has a wonderful quote that I believe every athlete should hear and internalize. “Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back… play for her.”
I know of men and women who have experienced difficult times within their local church. Many have been disappointed by fellow Christians, or often by church leaders. This has caused some to draw back from church and in fact some have completely wandered away from their faith in God. Where opportunities exist, I challenge them with this question: “if other Christians have caused you to wander away from God and the church that he established, was your actual relationship with Jesus, or was it with people?” I have been disappointed by many, many Christians, but I know that God has never disappointed me. God, however, has humbled me to recognize that I too have disappointed other Christians, and disappointed God more times than I want to think about. But God never disappoints and is always quick to forgive me for my sins when I confess them. How can I wander from him for the actions of other sinners like me? One of my favorite verses in the Bible comes from John 6. After Jesus gave a “hard teaching” (vs. 60), many disciples turned away, so Jesus then turned to the original 12 disciples and asked them if they wanted to leave as well (vs. 67), but Peter answered: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (vs. 68b).
Like Mia Hamm who had to remind herself of where it all began, I need to remind myself of the day I accepted Jesus into my heart and remind myself of the beauty of that first love. God loves me so deeply and his primary desire is to have a personal relationship with me. When I get that relationship right, I no longer look to the left or to the right to see how I have been wronged, I look up into my savior’s eyes and I recognize that he is in control. May you too return to your first love – Jesus.