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Monday, March 19, 2007

What age group are you?

The object of the game is to score by maneuvering the ball into the opposing goal; only the goalkeepers may use their hands or arms to propel the ball in general play. The team that scores the most goals by the end of the match wins. While sitting on the sidelines watching my boys run up and down the field, with the sole goal of scoring the most goals, I realized how much the game of soccer is similar to being a Christian (hey I am a Mom of boys this is where I get my spiritual inspirations).

When my boys began playing soccer they were in the 4 and 5 age group. Parents would crowd around the outside perimeter cheering their kid on, too excited to sit. You hear things like, “just kick the ball; don’t worry if you are running the wrong way; you are doing a great job; look at my child isn’t she/he the best!” The kids love the attention from the parents and love to have one chance to make contact with the ball. As Christians we are the same when a person is a new Christian, we cheer them on and they hear phrases like, “Jesus loves you; you are doing a great job learning about God; don’t beat yourself up we all make mistakes.” The new Christian walks away encouraged and uplifted.

A few years later my sons entered into the 8 & 9 year olds age group in soccer. Here the parents have their lawn chairs; they have been here and done that for the last several years. There is still much cheering, for parents know they are still working on coordination, but by now they should have the rules of the game down. You hear comments like, “Oh I can’t believe he/she just did that! Come on you know better than that; Beat that team!” There is laughing while making these comments, because there is still a good time to be had by all, but the kids know by now they are being laughed at. The same is true of believers towards each other, when they know a person has been a Christians for awhile. Comment like these may be heard: “They should have known better than that; what were they thinking? Don’t worry God will forgive you once again.” Sometimes an attitude of “Look at me I have all the right tools and I attend church more” is displayed by the one who has not tripped up. The seasoned Christian who did fall does not feel as encouraged or supported, and is left a little bewildered. Where is the support when I stumble and fall?

Then we enter the 12-14 age group in soccer. For parents this becomes serious stuff, competition is tuff, and they are out for blood. You may hear things like, “Knock that person down! You are better than him, come on. I cannot believe you just missed that goal.” As a parent you feel the pressure; it is no longer cute seeing them run up and down, you are there so your child can kick some serious soccer booty (am I allowed to say that here?) Sometimes as Christians we can lose sight that we treat seasoned Christians the same way. We have such high expectations.

What happens when we see a Christian to whom we have admired and looked up to, fall into sin. We can come back with comments like, “they knew better; what were they thinking? How in the world did they think they could get away with that? I would have never done that! Here I thought of them as a role model, now what!” In reality what these Christians need are the parents of the 4 & 5 year olds cheering them on, encouraging them.

When you see a Christian fall, what is your first reaction? Is it love, or is it a thought of “what were they thinking?” Christ has nothing but love for people who had fallen into sin. In fact, I believe Christ’s heart is tendered towards the one who has fallen into sin.

I John 2:1 states, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

So as a fellow Christian, if we see another stumble or fall we should be there telling them, not to despair. Jesus is righteous and he makes a case for you in heaven, not on the basis of your perfection (or because you should have known better) but because of his death and resurrection.

Despite the fact my oldest son is now in the 12 to 14 age group in soccer, I think I will still cheer him on just like I did when he was 5 years old. Something tells me life is hard enough; having a screaming Mom encouraging him no matter the outcome of the game, will have more of an impact in the long run. Just like encouraging fellow Christians, especially if you see them stumble, will have a bigger impact on their Christian walk.


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21 Comments:

Blogger Barb said...

Oh my word, Laurel, this moved me so much it made me cry. I love that you used the different stages of a specific sport, soccer in this case, to show how attitudes and expectations change as we "grow."

How easily we forget that we are all His children. We are so quick to hold each other to "grown up" and "should know better" standards.

It's an endless comfort to me to know that my Father allows me to be a child and make childish mistakes. And be forgiven.

Because I am His child.

Beautiful, just beautiful. And I am moved.

March 18, 2007 at 9:14 PM  
Blogger Susanne said...

This was very true, Laurel! We need to cheer each other on in our Christian walk no matter how long we've been running the race.

March 18, 2007 at 10:50 PM  
Blogger Denise said...

Amen Laurel, this is so true. As christians, we should always encourage one another. If one of our fellow christians should stumble, we should be there to help pick them back up, not push them further away. Bless you for sharing this.

March 18, 2007 at 11:15 PM  
Blogger Judith said...

Thank you so much for this. We do need to be encouragers, especially to people who may need more of it, and like you said, not be so quick finding fault, or judging. The rules are so simple, if we'd just line up attitude with effort.

March 19, 2007 at 3:44 AM  
Blogger Terri @ In His Hands said...

Gosh, isn't that the truth. Great way to look at it, Laurel.

March 19, 2007 at 6:05 AM  
Blogger ChupieandJ'smama said...

Um, Ok, I'm guilty of the 12-14 parents type of cheering on (or lack there of). Thanks for the reminder. I will always try to remember that I need to cheer like everyone is still on the 4-5 year old team. Probably a few people in church yesterday that could have used my encouraging gaze instead of my disapproving glare. Tsk, Tsk to myself.

March 19, 2007 at 6:57 AM  
Anonymous eph2810 said...

Just beautiful, Laurel. You are so right. We should encourage each other when we stumble and fall. We also tend to have a harder time to encourage our pastors or other workers in God's church when they stumble or even fall. But they are just as human as we are. We are all flawed, but by His grace, we are forgiven. We should be just as forgiving--Christ does.

Blessings to you and yours...

March 19, 2007 at 7:33 AM  
Blogger Beckie said...

Yes, Laurel, very beautiful. Not having boys though, I can only imagine.

The scripture "...let him without sin cast the first stone." comes to mind. I know I've been tempted with some of those thoughts myself but I also know I could just as easily have fallen into that sin.

Thanks for sharing this. Blessings to you Laurel.

March 19, 2007 at 8:44 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Laurel-

This is so beautifully written! I have had a fellow Christian who I look up to reach out to me lately. She has seen me pulling away from the women's community at church because I have been too overwhelmed with my daily responsibilities to do anything extra. Plus I haven't really found a group that I am completely comfortable with besides the young moms group and now that my kids are school-aged I feel awkward in that group as well. Anyways my friend runs the young moms group and she has asked ...ummm kind of told me...that I need to come back so that I can get the support I need when going through stressful times. Your post is showing me that my friend has seen me stumble and that she is reaching down to help me up. What a gift she is offering me in Jesus name! Laurel, you have helped me make a decision that I have struggled with. I am going to email Crista right now and see if I can attend her Bible study on Thursday mornings.

Blessings to you my friend!

Jennifer

March 19, 2007 at 8:51 AM  
Anonymous Lynn Donovan said...

Laurel,

Wonderful analogy. My son played competitive soccer and it really bugged me a great deal the ruthlessness of it all.

Much to contemplate here. Well Done. Blessings my friend. Lynn

March 19, 2007 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

Wow, that's a wonderful post. (And yes, as a mom of boys, you take what you can get in the imagery department!) I think I fall a bit into both categories- holding people up to standards that are sometimes too high and providing grace even to seasoned Christians. Great stuff to think about!

March 19, 2007 at 10:19 AM  
Blogger Cyndi said...

I thought of the same scripture as Beckie (above). One thing I love about that passage is how they walked away, "the older ones first." (John 8:9) The longer we walk with God, the more we come face-to-face with our own sin and our own need for grace, and the quicker we are to extend that grace to others. I want to be in whatever age group it is that drops their stones and walks away first, leaving it to Jesus (who doesn't condemn)or perhaps doesn't even pick up a rock at all.

Excellent post today!

March 19, 2007 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger on the Rock said...

Amen! Being lifted up is the most amazing gift of all!

March 19, 2007 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger The Preacher's Wife said...

What is even more heartbreaking are the parents/Christians who yell at the baby's/baby Christians as if they are teenagers/mature Christians! I am always so ashamed when I find myself expecting more of others than I expect out of myself - especially when I know they may be much younger in the faith. As the preacher says, "Get the telephone pole out of your own eye before you worry about the toothpick in someone else's!

Loved this post Laurel..:))

March 19, 2007 at 11:26 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

My brother-in-law used to always say, "Christians eat their young." I've since come to realize that wiser Christians handle those who fall in a Christ-like manner in hopes of restoring their faith.

We all have to remember that it's the ball we're kicking around and not each other, right?

Thanks, Laurel!

March 19, 2007 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

To straighten out one's shorts, shall we say, it only takes committing one big "foul" in public to quickly learn to have compassion for others who foul and fall. I know whereof I speak. thanks for the humbling post.

March 19, 2007 at 3:26 PM  
Blogger Fiddledeedee (It Coulda' Been Worse) said...

L.W., that was a beautiful post. I pray to always take the role as an encourager, especially when a brother or sister in Christ is heading in the wrong direction. Who are we to ever stand in judgement? I'm just one step from falling down myself.

But as a mother of mostly girls, I wonder how I'm going to find spiritual inspiration from Polly Pockets? Just thinking outloud.

March 19, 2007 at 7:18 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

What a perfect illustration Laurel. I have often wondered why it is we - as human beings - seem to delight in someone else's failure. It sometimes seem we like to lift people up to impossible heights just so we can watch them fall.
I want to live extending the grace toward others I would want extended to me - I have had great need of grace in my life. I am ever grateful for a Father who lifts me up and lets me start again.
This was an inspirational devotion.

March 19, 2007 at 7:57 PM  
Anonymous Lundie said...

Oh this is such a wonderful analogy. Thank you.

March 19, 2007 at 10:22 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Thank you for the reminder that we serve a God who chooses to restore--may we take His lead!

March 21, 2007 at 1:31 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Laurel--really wonderful stuff here. Thanks so much.

March 22, 2007 at 6:58 AM  

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