“Blue forty-two…watch number 53!” yells the quarterback as he motions his hand to the right. The wide receiver moves to the left of the quarterback as he sets in motion the play. With the slight move of his hand like that of a conductor, the ball is snapped from the center. The huge concerto is unfolded as offensive linemen move in motion like the strings section starting the opening movement of Beethoven’s fifth symphony. It’s particularly interesting how things unfold on the football field with the snap of the ball. I am always amazed at how football is played with such grace and flow; it is just beautiful.
It’s tempting to romanticize the game of football as many Americans do but I am not here to do that. I want to offer something profound and interesting, an insight of what I learned from watching football and from a recent film “When the Game Stands Tall” starring Jim Caviziel as Bob Ladouceur. The film was a glimpse of unity and led me to think about how to work as a team on our campuses to lead to transformation
It’s Always a Team Challenge
In the film, Bob Ladouceur (Jim) is a coach of a high school football team. His team holds a 151 game winning streak. Suddenly, that streak comes to end and the team faces a wave of difficulties on how to pick up the pieces and move forward. Often times, when ministry is going well and things move like a well-oiled machine, we forget that “We [get] lost, caught up in the hype, the glory and the relentless pressure.” For them, it’s all about continuing the winning streak. Often, in doing ministry, we find ourselves caught up in the hype, the glory and the pressure. So, when things come crashing down and an adversary arises, we forget the processes and the foundation upon which we do our work.
In the movie for instance, the danger that led to the team’s downfall was a result of complacency, pride and overconfidence, resulting in dangerous threats to personal and team success – which led to the end of the streak.
As Ligon Ducan puts it,
“God wants us to study our disappointments, because if we’ll look at our disappointments, we’ll see what we love. When the bottom falls out, you will learn things about what you love that you never knew before. And it won’t always be pretty. You’ll learn what you really believe when the bottom falls out—when the crushing disappointments come. And you’ll learn where you really rest—where you really find your fulfillment and satisfaction and security.”
In disappointment and discouragement, we are tempted to forget that God is God and God is good. In disappointment and discouragement, we are tempted to succumb to idolatry. Why? We are tempted to think there is a greater treasure that has been withheld from us or taken away from us—a greater treasure than what God has or can give to us.”
Rising Past Difficulty
There is no simple formula. However, in watching this movie and football, seeing these different parts come together to work, it speaks to the possibility of restoration and part of that requires us to die to ourselves. It was when these high football players saw in each other the need for one another, that they were able to reach their goal of finishing a game. Similarly, we need to acknowledge that we need each other in our work for God’s kingdom as well.
In the movie, the new senior on the team had to learn to work together with the variety of personalities. These players learned to work together, acknowledging that every player has a part to play, as well as accepting each other’s flaws. We have to recognize that each of us plays a critical role in the scheme of God’s kingdom work on our campuses.
When hard moments come, I am reminded that life’s most impressionable lessons are learned when something challenging happens and confronts you. Those lessons teach us that we cannot run this journey alone. It goes back to the ideals: love God and love people. It is difficult to live this out. As the coach said to his team before every game, “We’re not asking you to be perfect on every play. What we’re asking of you and what you should be asking of each other is to give a perfect effort from snap to whistle.” God asks the same of us on our campus because like most football teams, when they’re unified and care about one another, they perform better.
Anthony Deng is the New York City Metro Campus Coordinator for Campus Renewal. He leads and coordinates volunteers for events such as One Cry and helps facilitate the New York City Metro Area student core team. Anthony was born and raised in New York City, graduated from CUNY the City College of New York, and has a B.A in History and Asian Studies. Anthony gives New York City tours to freshmen of various campuses. On his tour, he teaches and shows students various hidden gems of New York City. On the side, he loves to collect college sweatshirts and t-shirts. In addition, he loves to play and watch basketball and football. He an avid fan of the Pacers & Colts.