Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: At the Pulpit (11/15/07)
TITLE: The Gridiron Gospel
By John Hunt
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The clack of shoulder pads echoed the field as the minister paced the sideline’s edge. The abrupt sound jarred his thoughts, and he looked up to see a boy pummeled by a lineman. He cringed.
“What am I doing here?” he mumbled to himself. “Four years at Bible college and two years at seminary, and I’m at the fifty yard line. Here, of all places. Coaching football.” His last memories of the game were of his face in the dirt, just like that poor kid out there.
“Shake it off, Tommy,” he shouted over to the huddle. Secretly, he began to question his calling.
“Lord, I don’t mean to doubt you,” he began, “but as you recall, I wasn’t exactly the best player in the game.”
He looked at the sky to plead his case, but only the dark clouds returned, silent and distant.
Tommy trotted to the sideline and plopped onto the hard bench, his facemask caked in mud and turf. “My dad was right,” he said in a defeated tone. “I don’t belong on a football field.”
The minister-turned-coach sat beside the boy and placed his hand on his shoulder. “Don’t let that play get you down, Tommy. Everyone has a bad day every now and then.”
The young boy kicked the dirt with his cleats. “It’s not just that,” he replied. “I’m too small, just like my dad says. I’m no good to anybody on this team.”
A cold wind cut through the minister’s jacket and chilled his skin to gooseflesh. He stared at the field, bathed in light, as the clamor faded and the world shrank to just the two of them.
“You know, being the biggest or strongest isn’t always the most important thing,” he said.
The breeze rustled Tommy’s hair as he turned to face the young coach. “Huh?”
“The Bible says, ‘In our weakness, He is strong.’ It may not be in football, or sports, or anything physical, but God has a plan for you. And if He wants you on the field, He’ll give you the strength to be all He created you to be.”
Tommy thought for a long moment as a play-action sent the ball to the eight yard line. The loudspeaker announced a first and goal, and a player jogged off the field.
Tommy ran to join the formation while the defense aligned the other side. The opponent’s massive frame cast a shadow over Tommy’s small form, eclipsing the stadium lights above. He swallowed hard.
The crowd faded to a dull roar and the lights to an opaque hue. Tommy closed his eyes and whispered a short prayer. He prepared himself to be crushed again, when an idea struck him. Light shone through the staggered line and illuminated a lane in the field ahead. One that only the most nimble of players could navigate.
The snap of the football cracked the air, and Tommy darted to the right side. The defensive end lurched and missed him by a mile, then stumbled to the ground like a clumsy moose. Tommy wove in and out of the linebackers, their bodies frozen like stone pillars. He floated to the end zone like a gazelle as the ball drifted into his arms. The referee’s arms shot in the air.
A massive cheer erupted from the crowd while the final seconds ticked off the clock. The young coach looked down at the wooden bench, his pulpit, and smiled. Suddenly, it all made sense.
“In our weakness, He is strong,” he whispered.
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