My high school class was rather small, which is probably why I was on the football team. I wasn’t good; certainly not as good as the first string players. But I was sent into a game from time to time. The highlight of my football “career” was at an away game; we were the visiting team. I was playing the safety position, which means “the last defender between the other team and the goal line”. In the third quarter their quarterback overthrew the ball and I intercepted it. It was a glorious moment. Since I don’t remember it clearly, I will assume the crowd went wild. Then silent. Because… after catching the ball, I dropped straight to the ground and curled up until the play was over.
It was during later reflection I realized I could have attempted one of those amazing run-backs, where the underdog defender takes the ball all the way down the field… and scores! That’s not what happened. I should have run until tackled. But I didn’t. I did not advance the ball even one yard down the field.
Over the years I have gained a little understanding of my abilities (and inabilities). I know now that I was a guy who-played-football and not a football-player. Similarly, I am a guy who-plays-guitar and not a guitar-player. One has desire, and the other has inherent ability and talent. It’s not the same thing.
Recently I was invited to be a leader in one of the ministries at my church. It’s kind of a big deal but not really. My first internal reaction reminds me of how I felt on that football field in 1978. I suddenly found myself holding a ball but unsure what to do next. There are differences, sure; but there are similarities as well.
In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul said,
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (ESV)
It’s a good thing that Paul did not drop to the ground, curl up, and wait for the play to be over. There are plenty of examples in the Bible where God hands the ball to someone who is not expecting it. I admit being arm-chair quarterback is not fair; it is easy to read about these people God chose, and to think, “Didn’t they have faith in God to deliver?” I understand their reluctance a little better now. Being prepared is not as easy as it looks.
As one person put it:
“When you get your ducks in a row, and the rubber meets the road… just make sure you don’t run over your ducks.”
Regarding the ministry at my church… after my initial surprise, I talked with my Father. I was reminded that it is He who manages the universe (uh, I meant “ministry”), not me. I was reminded, too, that just like the football game nearly 30 years ago, I am supposed to be prepared, to suit up, and to show up. And God will do the rest. So I will prepare, and I will suit up, and I will show up. I am excited to see what God will do.
But this time… I will run until tackled.