It’s almost spring! The time of year for flowers, sun, leisurely walks, shorts, sandals and baseball! As a mom of athletes, one eleven, one fourteen, I am keenly aware of the changing of the seasons. For as the seasons change, so do our sports (and sadly, so does our equipment). As basketball season merges into track and then into baseball season, I have had to ask myself some very difficult questions.
The problem for me lies in my role as a wife, mom, cheerleader, fan and mostly my role as a Christian. Each new season brings new challenges and new opportunities for me to be either a positive role model or just another uptight, overprotective, overzealous parent. Am I a parent who cares more about winning and losing and promoting their children than truly enjoying the sport?
Don’t get me wrong. I have grown up and lived between athletes and coaches for years now. I am not coming from the “just let them have fun” camp. I truly believe that children learn many life lessons from athletics and from the hard work that is needed to achieve success. I believe that children learn valuable life lessons, work ethics, and the grace of winning and losing gracefully from their participation in sports. I want my children to learn from their successes as well as their failures. I want them to experience both the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” because, in life, both are painfully present.
But, and here’s the “but,” that hangs me up so often, I long to put Christ first in every situation and to see the fans and players on both sides of the field and fence as His children. I fear that too often I get caught up in the moment with all the other fans and either let angry words or bad attitudes seep into my life and come out of my mouth.
Last Spring, I watched a dear friend get caught up in coaching and the “moment” and charge toward the teenage umpire at home plate with anger and disgust on his face and in his voice. My friend didn’t utter profanities or make personal attacks but the tone of his words said much for the attitude of his heart. He is a committed Christian and devoted church member and the episode left him guilt-ridden and sad. He apologized to every person he could find in the following week for what he felt to be his bad behavior and poor witness.
I give this friend much credit. How many times do we feel this remorse for our bad behavior? How often do we simply walk away after a tense game and angry interactions justifying and excusing the behavior that we know is wrong? How often do we set a bad example for our children by what we say and do at the ball park or in the gym? James 1:20 tells us that “mans anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
In even the most tense of games between the biggest of rivals, how can I portray a righteous life?
Can a parent truly meld the areas of sports and Christianity in the life of their family? Surely we can, we must be able to do this. If we can’t, then sports should be taken out of the equation or we must remove ourselves.
The life skills and happy memories that my boys have gathered over a lifetime of sports are part of who they are. I wouldn’t trade these memories for the world and neither would they. They are the people they are today because of the good things they have learned on the playing field and the friendships they have made there.
However, it is essential that we as parents continually examine our own hearts and attitudes as we face each new season. We need to ask ourselves some hard questions and be ready to give some honest answers:
1. Am I putting God first in the life of our family?
Are we missing church often, forgetting about prayer, Bible Study or youth groups?
2. Am I pushing my child into a sport for my own enjoyment?
3. When watching a game am I exhibiting a “win at all costs” attitude in my behavior?
4. Am I questioning the authority of the referees or showing a lack of respect?
5. Am I teaching a lack of respect to coaches?
6. Am I viewing the kids and parents on the other team as God’s children or as the “enemy”?
Our motives, our attitudes, our reactions to stress all speak volumes about our faith and our desire to serve God. What kind of Christian are you going to be this season? Are you going to give glory to God or embarrass him? Will people looking at you see Jesus or just another over-the-top fan?
If I want to glorify Christ in all I do then I need to be intentional about that goal. I need to pray and truly think about Him every time I load up the min-van and go. I MUST put God ahead of the game in my heart. He is truly the one who gives us everything and to whom we must be accountable in the end.
So cheer, cheer, cheer. Be there every game! Be “super-fan” but do it all “for the glory of God”.