"God is in control....God is in control.... God is in control...." were thoughts that had to be forcefully placed into my own heart on many occasions during this past soccer season. There were many instances in which the Holy Spirit gently reminded me that I am not in control of how our team would finish, because the recipe for success this soccer season seemingly called for an extra dose of superior strategy. In my mind I thought I am going to strategically pave our way to glory, for we have too much inexperience to compete.
Moreover, the players exerted so much effort during preseason training, both physical and mental, that their efforts had to be rewarded with a championship (at least in my own mind). After a crushing defeat, I would simply remind myself that good works, hard effort, and right attitudes are all meritorious. However, God doesn't give trophies in life often in the way that we will perceive them to be given. Coupled with the aforementioned pearl of wisdom from our faith, we also know that God doesn't always award first place to those who think they deserve it, as made manifest in Jesus' famous declaration, "the first shall be last, and the last shall be first".
Why do I share these candid lessons with you? Because without realizing it until this very moment, I can sense that deep down all the players caught a whiff of the same sweet wisdom that God has reminded me with.
How do I know this you may ask? Did they tell me directly? No. But I think every person who witnessed yesterday's consolation match could sense it in their demeanor, and more importantly in their mutual support of one another.
Players continually congratulated one another throughout the game. The excitement level on the bench resembled a championship game more closely than it did a consolation match.
Playing in a consolation game is certainly a cause for despair. Losing each and every game by an unfavorable bounce, or a stubborn inch can amplify that despair, making it bubble over into downright disgust that they were even asked to travel such a distance, for a seemingly purposeless game.
The youth of our soccer team were having none of those symptoms. Therefore, I left the game consoled by them. They showed that true solidarity means supporting one another when it would seem to matter the least.
I was indescribably impressed with their efforts, but more importantly with their willingness to accept distasteful and unpleasant events and emotions, all for the sake of each other. They served one another through suffering, and they even suffered with a smile. The smiles on their faces yesterday ensured that this young man didn't feel as if he had let them down, because they refused to let one another down. We should all be proud of these young men and woman. I certainly am.