WHERE DO WE EVEN START?
As the warmth of the sun fades over the horizon, the crisp, cool breeze against the back of your neck reminds you that it’s autumn. You see the beauty in the colors of the sun setting in the west, and you see the serenity of the moon and stars and that one, bright planet beginning to illuminate the sky in the east. There is no peace or calming to be had, though. When you look up, you see the bright lights warming up. When you look around, you see the restlessness and energy of the people. When you look down, you see stripes painted across the grass. When you look in front of you, you see your players looking dejected. It’s halftime of the most important football game of your students’ lives. As the coach, you know it’s up to you to bring back the energy and hope and give the team something to play for despite being down 28-3. Every player wants to believe a comeback is possible, but how do you make them believe it? You can’t expect 25 unanswered points to start the half. You can’t expect the explosive offense on the other side to cool off completely from that crisp, autumn breeze, either. So you get up and tell your students it’s not over. You tell them they can play better. You tell them you believe in them. Then, you answer the most important question on everyone’s mind – “We’re down 25 at halftime! If we’re going to make a miraculous comeback, where do we even start?” So you throw strategy out the window. You put away the clipboard and erase the X’s and O’s on the whiteboard. The whole team hears the cap come off the marker. You turn around and change the narrative of the game with three strokes of the marker. The whiteboard with still faintly recognizable lines and words that had been rapidly erased has three characters on it that stand out above the rest. It’s a simple, handwritten scoreboard that says “0-0.” Why? Because you can’t score 25 points in one possession, and you can’t control what already happened in the first half. You put your nose to the plow and do your best to win the second half. Play like the score is 0-0 and know that no matter what the outcome is, you will leave the field knowing you gave your best effort, and you won the new game that starts now.
At any given time, this scenario can play out in the spiritual lives of our families. All it takes is a small lapse of focus to be losing significantly at halftime. When the reality sets in that we’re in the middle of a game with significant consequences at stake, we have two choices in front of us – 1.) tell the team to keep doing what they’re doing and hope that somehow the results miraculously change by themselves, or 2.) start a new game and win the game in front of you. The hardest part of any gameplan is figuring out how to start, and that can be particularly tricky when you feel like you’re playing from behind.
On the flip side, you may be feeling confident because you have a big lead, and everything seems like it’s working out. It feels like you can coast to victory without putting in too much extra effort. The result of the game feels like it’s been determined already, and your team can take its foot off the gas pedal. This position is nearly as dangerous as being behind by a large amount. The minute you stop strategizing, teaching, coaching and leading is the minute you start to see the lead slip away. The lack of aggression can lead to a lack of focus and a lack of discipline and an increase in unforced errors. It’s important to keep grinding and continuously keep your team on task to maintain the lead you have developed. So you do the same thing the coach on the other sideline is doing. You throw strategy out the window. You put away the clipboard and erase the X’s and O’s on the whiteboard. The whole team hears the cap come off the marker. You turn around and change the narrative of the game with three strokes of the marker. The whiteboard with still faintly recognizable lines and words that had been rapidly erased has three characters on it that stand out above the rest. It’s a simple, handwritten scoreboard that says “0-0.” Why? Because the moment we feel comfortable is the moment we become vulnerable. We must try to win the game that is in front of us and do our best to win the new game that starts now.
In reality, few of us are actually football coaches, some of us don’t understand football terminology and most of us down here in south Texas often don’t even remember what it is to feel a crisp, autumn breeze. So, what’s the point? We, as parents, must be the spiritual leaders of our families. Just as a coach must never relax or give up on the team or let the team lose focus, we must do the same in the spiritual lives of our kids. But the question we must ask lies in the uneasiness of feeling like we’ve already been defeated or in the false comfort of feeling like we have already achieved our goals and obtained victory. Where do we even start? Some of us have never even trained for the game. Sure, we go to practice once or twice a week on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, but we don’t train at home or do our part to stay in shape. If we are going to be successful as family units living to serve the Lord and be led by the Holy Spirit in all we do, we can’t rely on practice twice a week to prepare us for what lies ahead. Sunday mornings at KCC are great. Wednesday evenings at KCC are awesome. Special events at KCC rock. But each week has 168 hours in it, and regular church programming offers between 2-3 hours per week for your kids. That leaves 165 hours when your kids aren’t at practice. They must be training at home. And it’s hard to start. 165 hours seems like a lot, but throw in school and work and soccer practice and trying to maintain sanity by having a social life and keeping the house clean and cooking dinner and finding a few hours of sleep here and there, and those hours get eaten up quickly. It is easy for us to feel like we don’t have time for a Bible story or a family time of prayer or a discussion about how God worked in our lives today. But if we give up because we feel we’ve been defeated, our families will suffer spiritually. If we feel we’ve already done enough and we can coast through life the way we’ve been doing it, our families can suffer spiritually. Focus on one play at a time. Prioritize the Spirit above all else, no matter how hard that is. Lead your team to do their best in the important game of their own pursuit of Christ.
It may not be easy, but we know where to start. Just like working out or starting a diet, it’s hard to get into the routine. Once you get into it for a few weeks, though, it becomes significantly easier to maintain it. Like a diet or working out, though, be weary of cheat days and don’t skip leg day. It’s hard to get back into it once you’ve taken a break. No matter how difficult it is or what sideline you are on or how easy or difficult it seems to you to make time and room for spiritual leadership in your home, you must start now. Put down the clipboard. Throw strategy out the window. Grab the marker and face the whiteboard. Let your team know the score is 0-0 and we are going to put forth our best effort and win the new game that starts now.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
– Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV)