What a weekend, sports fans! I spent the better part of Saturday in Hattiesburg, and was forced to perform my typical-weekend perusal of college football via my cell phone. I scanned the updates as Alabama absorbed a poll-upheaving loss at South Carolina, while USM jumped out to a big lead and then lost to East Carolina. I made it home in time to witness a dramatic game between Florida and LSU, which seemed to go later into the night than it actually did.
The Saints played late on Sunday afternoon, coinciding with an early-evening NASCAR race start time, so I used my DVR to record both and watched them sans commercial breaks after I arrived home last night from church. My driver did not fare very well in the race and the Saints lost ugly to Arizona, capping off a contest that left many of their so-called fans shaking their heads in disgust. The Times Picayune was rife with reader comments this morning that closely resembled the sound of rats abandoning a sinking bandwagon. (Or something like that, anyway) I’m a lifelong Saints fan – I’ve seen worse times for them in years past. I don’t get too high after a win or too low following a loss because there’s always next week for the boys from the funny-shaped building on Poydras street. I have no real choice in the matter and can take my fan-lumps with the best of them.
Those fickle followers, I tell ya. Nine months ago the streets of New Orleans were filled with fans who believed the team could do no wrong. Sean Peyton could have won in a race for mayor of the beleaguered city; Drew Brees was on pace for an even higher office. (Note the “In Brees We Trust!” banners) Store shelves burgeoned with black and gold merchandise and the mere sight of a Saints player in public would set off a melee for autographs and photo ops. By the time the Super Bowl ended and the victory parades gave way to regular Mardi Gras parades, there yet remained an undiminished feeling of euphoria as ‘our team’ was celebrated for a championship season that came very close to perfection.
Now, less than two months into a new season the same fans are jumping ship because of a perceived shoddy display of output on the part of those same players; players idolized less than a month ago. As one ‘fan’ put it in his comment to an article this morning, “I used to be a fan, but I got over it. Time to bring back the paper bags.” In this statement he is referring to a time in the early 1980’s when fans wore bags over their heads due to the fact the team was so wretchedly bad at the time.
No one stays on top forever. Today’s Tiffany will always be eclipsed by tomorrow’s Miley Cyrus. The Tony Dorsett of yesterday is forgotten with the thrilling ascent of a newer, faster Chris Johnson today. Much like the commenter I quoted above, we get over it and move on in a never-ending search for whatever awaits us over the next horizon.
Sadly, these things are not merely limited to the physical world. A young man stopped by last night to watch the recorded game with me, but it was only a pretense on his part. In actuality he had been encumbered with some recent spiritual questions in his life and basically needed to use me as a sounding board. I did the best I could in providing meager answers and soft advice to the soul searching questions he posited, at least, I hope I did. I do not have all of the answers - and that may be the most truthful thing I’ve yet written in this blog. Thankfully, more than anything else, he just needed a prod in the right direction and I was able to decipher this by the time we finished our conversation. He is a good kid, and by faith I believe that he will continue to walk the straight path that all Christians aspire to. I watched him grow up in our church; he attended my Sunday School class as a teen and I know his heart better than most, maybe.
There have been countless others over the years, some got it and others apparently didn’t. I cringe when I hear the stories, usually second hand, and I pray for those kids, my kids, when I receive an update on a spiritual walk gone awry. It is not for me to judge and I never do, but it has a way of hurting me anyway; a proverbial heartbreak with each and every tidbit that finds its way back to me. As a Sunday School teacher, and as a youth leader – where did I fail them? With no recourse for me beyond a judgment that is not mine to verdict, I do the only thing I can be certain of: I pray for them. And with an admittedly weak faith, I faithfully hope it is enough.
I recall a time in my younger days when I fell away from my Christian walk as well, despite the best efforts of those who taught me and prayerfully advised me as I grew up. Looking back, I acknowledge it was my own fault and also know there was nothing else anyone could have done to coerce me to stick to the right path. It was during that time in my life, despite the Bible, despite knowing G_d had a plan for my life, and despite my Christian faith - I simply got over it. Those were dark days, indeed. I remember with not a little sorrow those lonely days of making an attempt to forge my own way and follow my rules along with my misguided ideas on life. I made it back, albeit in a tough and thankless manner, with many a tear-stained eye in my wake. But someone was praying for me. Somebody loved me. Someone believed in me. My return to G_d would not have happened otherwise.
Paul writes, “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”
I can return that favor for others who vacate the bandwagon of faith and get over it when a spiritual walk appears meaningless compared to the things Satan’s world apparently has to offer. They might just make it back as well. The possibilities are endless when your Heavenly Father specializes in the impossible.