Last Friday evening, if you were anywhere close to my home then you probably heard me scream for joy as my beloved alma mater’s football team won their opening game in impressive fashion. West Point’s Black Knights defeated the Temple University Owls by a final score of 28-13. “Why“, you might ask, “was this such a big deal?” Well if you follow Army football….and I realize that many of you might not….but if you do, then you’d agree that the last several years have been disappointment after disappointment. And let’s not mention that long 14-year losing streak to our arch rival, the Naval Academy.
So there is hope along the Hudson River at the United States Military Academy this week, and time will tell if it carries forward beyond this week’s opponent, Rice University, which will serve as Army’s home opener.
But there’s a point to my story. In all my excitement, I came across a viral video of the football team’s post-game celebration in the locker room. Imagine the scene. The football team is packed into a tiny locker room, while the head coach, standing on top of a table, is delivering an inspirational message about enjoying the fruits of this hard fought victory. Then, without provocation, the coach takes what some might see as a sharp turn from his unprepared remarks. He asks one of the players to “lead the team in giving thanks”. The team drops to one knee while the player says to his teammates, “I invite you to join me in a word of thanks”. What then followed was a gracious young player leading his teammates in an unscripted prayer which I decided to share to all my friends on my Facebook page.
I can’t immediately confirm if my excitement and reason for sharing the video was due to the team’s victory or was it because of the prayer. For me, there were two personal take-aways from that video that I’d like to share.
First, football, as many know, is a full contact sport, full of noises, expletives, bruises and many times, broken bones. Yet in the stillness after the final whistle, there was a quiet moment and a sudden still. Some of you may recall the story of Elijah in 1 Kings, Chapter 19, verses 11 – 12:
He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
Sometimes it takes the sheer silence and the removal of any seemingly, deafening sounds around us before we are able to hear what God is saying to us. What are you doing to remove those noises around you?
My second takeaway struck me to the bone. While I was sharing a video about Army’s victory and the gracious prayer, what followed on my Facebook page was very surprising. We all have those handful of friends in the hundreds that follow us on Facebook that really aren’t friends at all….right? I mean, they’re those individuals who “friended” us years ago and if we ever had the time to go through and purge the lists, then maybe they wouldn’t make the cut. One such individual suddenly went into a subtle but direct discourse about “what about the non-Christians” on the team who might be offended by the prayer that was heavily leaning in the Christian light?
I tried to put out the fuse delicately , but my “friend” pursued and things got a little ugly and tense. The gloves started to come off and my friend was obviously turned off that the public prayer by the team was assumingly offensive. In this age of political correctness, in her mind, my friend was in the right frame of mind to debate the fairness of the prayer. In fact, days later, that same video has been removed from the Internet it seems. What only appears now is a “cleaned up” version of the same video, where the coach’s remarks are heard, but the prayer is removed.
I don’t know the exact religious beliefs of my friend but I suspect she is either agnostic or an atheist. I don’t know if she’s ever been on an organized sports team that’s overcome adversity. And I don’t know if she was just having a bad day when my post popped up on her news feed. Whatever the reason, they are certainly her right to debate and maybe that’s a WAWA message for another day. As for me, I am always reminded of Pascal’s similar thoughts on the subject of “is there a God or not”. These thoughts are commonly referred to as “Pascal’s Wager” where he says (paraphrased by me):
“I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live as if there isn’t and to die to find out that there is.”
What kind of wager will you make today?