Posts Tagged ‘secular activities’

Earlier this week, our three youngest children were recognized for their participation in a Fall sport at the high school (i.e. Patrick & AJ – football, and Bekah – volleyball), as well as their appearance on the school’s Honor Roll for the 1st grading period.  For us, their distinction as “Scholar Athletes” is a special achievement, because it indicates that they are balancing the demands of both the classroom and the playing field.  As proud as we are of these things, I am also mindful of the criticism that we’ve received as “Christian” parents, for allowing our kids to be so involved in these “secular” activities.  After all, both practices and games have, and will, continue to conflict with church activities; and our involvement as parents will continue to compete for our time and resources.  For some, this would seem to be unspiritual, worldly, and a distraction from the things of God.  But I would beg to differ.


There was a time in our lives when we, and often times our kids, were at the church three or four nights a week.  Our whole life centered around it, and we certainly wouldn’t have let anything as trivial as a ball game take precedence over it.  In those days our concept of holiness hinged on being set apart from the world, and what we would have called, “ministry” went on within the four walls of the church.  We home schooled the kids with Christian based curriculum, and wouldn’t allow cable television in our house.  Now, let me preface the rest of this thought with the disclaimer, that none of these things, in and of themselves, is bad or wrong.  If you, or someone you love, has felt led to do these things, by all means follow that leading.  I’m not even saying that it was wrong for us in that season of life.  But after a while, the Lord began to push us in a new direction.  He showed us that the people He wanted to reach weren’t likely to set foot in the church, and that we would not be a credible voice to them by simply showing up on their doorstep one day.  As I looked around, I realized that I didn’t even know my own neighbors, because we were always too busy with church stuff.  The Lord also impressed upon me that our connection to the institution that we called, “church”, should not, and could not be a substitute for our connection to Him.  While I’d grown up with the idea that the church building was “God’s house”, I now understood that He actually dwelled inside of me; and that it is “Christ in Me” that is the “hope of glory”.  In this, I could see that holiness wasn’t simply separating myself from the world, it was actually separating myself unto God and His purposes; which actually includes engaging the world, and the people in it.  I further understood that if this is true for me, it must also be true for my kids.


I also started to recognize that our job as parents wasn’t just to protect our kids, but to prepare them for the life that God was calling them to.  While the thought of raising them as hothouse flowers (i.e. in a filtered & controlled environment) was appealing, it was hard not to wonder whether they would survive their inevitable transplant into the garden of real life.  I had to admit that the thought of allowing them to swim in the murky waters of a troubled world was pretty daunting.  But if you know that someone is destined to live in the ocean, the sooner you can acclimate them to water, the better.


All of this amounted to a revolution in the way we approached our day to day business.  Church stopped being the place we went to feel connected to God, and simply became a place to gather with other believers as we endeavored to integrate Him into every other facet of our lives.  While that gathering remains a source of inspiration, encouragement and accountability, it is by no means our source for God’s interaction in our lives.  Over time, our schedule has included less and less church based activities, and more time spent with people who don’t know Jesus.  And as such, we’ve become more like real neighbors and less like visitors from the holy land.  This is not meant as a slight or to disparage our church family, or our pastor.  We are blessed to be a part of a great congregation of brothers and sisters, with a wonderful Christ-like Pastor, and a teen ministry that’s touching the lives of our kids.  The point is that these things are simply meant to undergird the mission, which is ultimately to be salt and light to a world in need of hope.


Finally, there is the issue of sports itself.  Again, many would view this as a purely secular and/or recreational activity, but we tend to look at it as training for real life.  While some might argue that it is academics that prepare a child for adulthood, I would submit that life is much more like an arena than a schoolroom.  The classroom is a controlled environment, with a script (i.e. established curriculum), a clear standard for success, and where the individual can flourish based on their own merit; while the playing field is often chaotic, and prone to sudden unexpected changes.  It’s a place where strategies often have to be adjusted in the middle of the game, and where we frequently are forced to rely on others in order to reach a place of victory.  I have found that those who only excel on an academic level, often find the non-linear and unscripted nature of life to be overwhelming.


It is not the sport itself that is virtuous, it is the heart of the athlete that dictates the value of the game.  If one simply participates for the their own glory and edification, there is little to be derived.  But when one embraces the challenges of commitment, self-discipline, sacrifice, preparation, endurance, teamwork, and execution, it can be fraught with benefits.  If nothing else, simply being involved in, and representing, something bigger than yourself can be of great value.  While it seems unlikely that our kids will play sports beyond this high school level, I can revel in the manifestations of these worthwhile characteristics in them.  They are all virtues which the scripture endorses.


In the end, it’s what’s going on inside of our hearts that will determine the eternal value of how we choose to spend our time.  Allowing the kids to participate in these programs has not only made them stronger, it has connected us to our community in a way that we weren’t, and created a myriad of opportunities to share the love of Christ.  Whether it’s grabbing a burger for a kid who has no money for food, or buying a Gatorade for a thirsty player, or sharing a blanket/poncho/umbrella when the weather’s bad, or giving a kid a ride home, or encouraging a player/coach when things don’t go well, or praising them when they do well, or telling another parent how great their kid is, or watching one of my kids initiate team prayer, or any one of a thousand other things, we have found that the playing field is a fertile field for fulfilling God’s purposes.


When asked about the apparent conflict between his athletic career and his missions work, the famous Scottish Missionary and Olympian, Eric Liddell was quoted as saying, “When I run I feel His (i.e. God’s) pleasure”.  I would submit that this was because being a runner was part of who God had made him to be.  Similarly, as we’ve stepped out into our community, and embraced our role as a conduit for God’s love, we have experienced that same pleasure.  For those who will follow the leading of God’s Spirit, there is no such thing as a genuinely “secular” activity.

Read Full Post »