But then I fell for a hockey boy. From head to skate-clad toe, he was the epitome of a die-hard. He'd played since he was four, watched the sport non-stop and attempted to explain the game to his hockey-illiterate girlfriend. I didn't really care. He looked awesome with the flow that curled just right under the helmet. I could deal with his love of the sport. Small price to pay, or so I thought.
Fast forward 20 years and we have a son who has followed in dad's footsteps. We spend 7 months of the year racing to and from the rink, frequent the hockey shops and try to figure out when Alex can get more ice time. I know how to tape a stick, but can't get the skates tight enough. I understand a pin book and sweat when I think about the cost of equipment. Alas, we are the people wishing for winter three weeks into May because hockey season. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined this life. And he's just a Mite.
In the course of the intervening years, the sport has seeped into my blood. There's nothing like the scrape of skates on freshly Zam'd ice, the sound of the puck hitting the boards or the chaos of the chase in a close game. There's also nothing quite like the aroma of hockey gear sitting in a basement, but I digress. We watch more games than I care to admit, follow college teams, NHL teams and high school teams. Some of my favorite movies revolve around the sport: Miracle. Mighty Ducks. Mystery.
A few nights ago, I was looking for hockey quotes for Alex's bedroom, and I came across a few that struck me as interesting. They come from Wayne Gretzky, "The Great One"
"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
"A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be."
These verses jumped off the screen, especially because a theology book I was reading for a class referred to sin as "effectively missing the goal." Sin is missing the goal. We miss 100% of the shots we don't take, and what makes a player great is anticipation. When I read things like this, I always see a faith connection...
Life sometimes seems like a big sheet of ice. There are two options: Stay where you are and be good or anticipate and move to be great.
Of course we want to be great. But we get complacent. We decide we like life where the puck is. Because we stay where we are, we don't realize how far we're falling behind the great ones. We feel in control of the situation surrounding us and our skills are good. But in our control, pride seeps in and we get cocky. We make missteps and get tripped up. We fall on the break-away, get checked from behind or find ourselves off sides. Our pride gets the best of us and the shavings of temptation weasel in causing us to sin. The people chillin' in the good zone don't help much, because they aren't too interested in winning the game. They just want to play, in all meanings of the word. All the while others with a wider gaze skate past us to victory that is Jesus Christ.
I don't wanna be that person. I don't wanna get tripped up, fall down, get hit hard from behind and find myself offsides, constantly in another face off, another battle with the enemy. I wanna anticipate great.
So how do we move to great? I think it's what The Great One said. We anticipate and move. We anticipate the opponent's position and movements - all the hooking, slashing and tripping he's going to try to wear us down. And then we anticipate and move into our position, ready to accept what Christ has planned and follow him, trust him to greatness.
We open our hearts to his will and his way, ready to receive the pass. We learn the Playbook inside and out, so the Word can direct us and teach us. We get our head in the game, through prayer and focus on Christ. And, we make sure our team and line consist of people more experienced at the game. These teammates, our brothers and sisters in Christ, encourage us, work us, challenge us and push us to excel, because they know that the whole point is to keep the eye on the goal and win the game.
And then we never waver or second guess our decision to take every shot at living wholeheartedly for Christ. We aim for the goal and shoot, giving it everything we've got. Yeah, we might mess up or miss (sin), but every shot we take at following Christ and living for him improves our game. It teaches us to persevere and avoid the corners where we get trapped. It teaches us the rush of playing well, the adrenaline of overcoming the opponent, and most important ... the freedom of a wide open sheet of ice, made clean by our full surrender to Christ Jesus.
Part Two: Wolves (Coming soon)