Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: SWEET HOUR OF PRAYER (don’t write about the song) (04/30/15)
- TITLE: My Sweat Hour of Prayer
By Noel Mitaxa
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Their game last Saturday was abandoned after a player from the opposing team had died on the field. The football league had asked me as the regional sports chaplain to visit and help them to get through the trauma of their grief.
Thankfully it’s a trip way out of town, with the road mostly clear of traffic. An ideal setting for plugging into God’s wisdom as I head for the clubrooms.
By way of explanation, Australian Rules football is a high-scoring, fast-moving game with eighteen players on each team; played on ovals one hundred and fifty yards long and one hundred and thirty yards wide.
Each game lasts one hundred minutes―with adjustments for lost time from restarts after goals are scored; injuries occur or penalty kicks are taken. With no off-side rule, players kick or punch the ball in any direction; constantly seeking clear space to receive or to pass the ball to team mates as they advance towards their goal.
With no off-side rule, tackles come from anywhere; but these tackles are always geared to gaining the ball―and only directed at whoever has the ball―with no tripping or neck-contact.
Now, back to my “sweat” hour of prayer, as I knew that few of my expected audience would know which church they were avoiding most―conscientiously ...
All the way, I’m praying. “Lord, thank you for this opportunity, even though I don’t know what to expect. Thank you that you are already there, and that you love these guys. Help me to connect with them through that love…
“Lord, we both know that the umpire saw the incident as a very simple and perfectly legal interception―the kind that we see lots of times in any game of football. But Lord, none of us could foresee what’s happened…
“Help me to discern where they are, so I can help them and focus on them rather than on my own feelings….”
Yet God is yet to reveal a bigger answer for these guys. One that would outstrip my own mix of preparation, anticipation and uncertainty…
Club officials’ expressions blend relief at my arrival with their personal shock and their concern for the players; who are assembling in the social club lounge.
God’s grace is flavouring the president’s introduction, as I distribute a take-home leaflet among them. It's a broad-brush outline of grief that encourages them to admit to their varied reactions. It also offers suggestions for giving each other the space or the support they need as they grow through the pain of their grief.
The whole experience for me is an adventure of exploring how God is answering my “sweat” prayers during the trip; yet as my input comes to a close, he is about to open up a dimension of healing that I could never have seen coming.
Another man steps forward, to introduce himself…
He introduces himself as Russell, the father of the deceased player…
“I want you guys to know that our family holds none of you responsible for what happened,” he said. “You practise and apply tackles like that all the time―just like our players do. And if anyone tries to tell you that we’re going to sue you; that’s a load of crap! ”
There’s hardly a dry eye in the room as I watch the guys break up into groups of two or three; or to gather around Russell, whose generosity and courage have blown them away.
My return trip is filled with amazement and gratitude for Russell’s input, which so closely parallels the forgiveness that God offers the whole world in the death of his own son. Not dead as a result of an innocent sports event, but because a cowardly judge caved in to a lynch mob.
Author’s note: Amazing – but totally true.
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