“i have less than zero talent. i promise you don’t want me to play.”
“don’t worry, you’ll be on my team.”
it was an incredibly beautiful Saturday in the middle of Michigan. my good friend Molly and i had road-tripped around the bottom of Lake Michigan to see a couple shows, a lot of friends and to deliver a birthday surprise. the weekend had hardly begun and i was already tired- my back was still sore from the chiropractor and i was praying constantly that i wouldn’t throw it out until the weekend was over- there was far too much to do.
after arriving at the venue, some of our friends finished soundcheck, grabbed their gloves and a few baseballs and headed to a large open field to enjoy the day. Molly and i socialized with a few other friends on the sidelines while letting the sun soak its way into our pasty, white Wisconsin skin. i was completely content to be there with friends and beautiful weather, i had no expectations for the day.
soon enough, one of the guys playing ball had to run inside and do soundcheck so the game disbanded. my friend Kevin came over to say hello then and very quickly he asked around to find people to replace the person who had left…unfortunately everyone declined. (baseball is definitely not a game for the uncoordinated- aka me). Molly chimed in declaring her love for soccer over baseball and just as quickly Kevin replied, “you wanna play soccer? we can do soccer!” and before i knew it, equipment was hauled out.
i was happy to help set up the goals, so i made my way over to where Kevin was assembling a frame and i began helping to untangle and attach the net. we made simple small talk and i joked, “you really don’t want me to play- i was at the chiropractor yesterday and i have zero athletic ability, i would be useless in a game” which was me simply being honest- i know my friend and i know that he’s competitive and loves to play hard (he’s also way better at sports than he gives himself credit for) so for someone who has never been good at sports, who was always picked last, and never played on a winning team…i didn’t have very high hopes in regards to actually playing.
once the field was set, everyone huddled around and teams were chosen. Kevin nominated himself and Molly as captains. i started edging my way off the field and Kevin was like “Liz can be my goalie” to which i looked up and was like “what?” but, i chose to just roll with it and i jogged down to the goal i would be responsible for defending. the remaining players were divided to teams and the game began.
as the ball moved across the field from the opposite end down to my goal for the first time, i was nervous but it was like i knew what to do without even thinking and with one fluid extension of my leg, i blocked a pretty aggressive scoring attempt and spun that ball right away from me and down to the other end of the field. i smiled to myself and with a whoop and cheering holler, my friend Kev shouted, “way to go Liz!” and suddenly i had some confidence. maybe i didn’t suck as bad as i thought i did, maybe my skill level wasn’t as horrible as i had been told for years and years. a little bit of encouragement to my heart went a very long way that day and it was all i needed to really get into the game and enjoy myself.
soon enough, i was aggressively going after the ball when it came near me and i wasn’t afraid to go after it, stepping away from my goal. playing soccer with Kevin was a lot like having someone else with the same brain on my side- it was pretty awesome. i would go one way, he would immediately cover for me. conversely, if he jumped into the goal for a little rest (cuz let’s be honest, bro was booking it up and down the field for a good hour…that’ll exhaust ya in a minute), well i would jump out and be more offensive. i blocked more goals than i expected to- some of them pretty miraculous…and every single time, my friend would cheer me on- no matter where he was on the field, i would hear that shout of “yeah Liz! good job! get it!” and my heart was soaring. i can honestly say i’ve never had more fun playing a game of soccer in my entire life.
why am i writing about all of this? no, not just because it was a joyful memory for me… it ended up being so much more because you see, in the middle of the game, God began speaking to me- being very direct to my heart and taking my openness for the weekend and filling it with His truth and His voice.
it literally all started when Kevin very calmly said, “don’t worry you’ll be on my team”
after he spoke those words, i had to turn my face away because my eyes filled with tears. it’s a battle i’ve fought for years, and many who know me and my heart struggles know this already, but i constantly struggle to see how i can be worth anyone’s time or friendship. it’s something God has continued to work on me with over the years that i’ve known Him, and this day was no exception.
“don’t worry you’ll be on my team he says” i mumbled to myself, “it’s really unfair for him to have to have me on his team- i don’t think he understands how sucky of an athlete i am.” and i berated myself for a good five minutes before God stepped in and whispered very softly, “maybe it matters a lot less than you think it does, and maybe he’s choosing you to be on his team for the exact reason you fear” well…that shut me up pretty quick, but my eyes were still filled with tears. as i made my way to the correct end of the field, i reached up to clear the tears before they could mess up my “perfect” makeup. i was pretty sure my friend noticed, but i acted like everything was normal and jumped into the game.
and then i blocked my first goal, more to my amazement than anyone else’s… and my friend cheered me on and my team rejoiced, and i laughed for the first time since stepping on the field. as the ball began moving away from me again, He spoke to my heart again, “i’m cheering for you too Beloved, you’ve got this.” Tears sprang to my eyes again and i was reminded of a message spoken last year on the Cityrockfest Tour where Kevin would talk about cheering his daughter on, “good job baby! you got this!” and how he related it to how God sees us when He’s cheering us on to let go of pain, addictions and darknesses in our lives. once again, i was overwhelmed with an intensity of the love of God– but i kept playing the game.
our team scored, the opposing team scored, eventually everyone had to head inside for dinner and VIP’s, but not before my friend spoke a few last words to my heart that left me reeling, “you did great Liz- that was fun” and i demanded a sweaty hug – but i was quite sure he had no idea how much something as simple as a soccer game had completely rearranged my heart and left me very vulnerable.
i’ve started to see, though, that very often, that is how God has been working in my heart and in my days. i wrote a previous blog post that alluded to the idea of walking out life with Jesus in the in-betweens and i absolutely would include this two hour soccer game in that idea of small things having great meaning.
to anyone looking in from the outside, it was just a simple soccer game.
to anyone else in the game, it was just a simple soccer game.
no, it wasn’t anywhere near as big as the World Cup and no, there was no huge manna-from-heaven moment…
but on a grassy field among friends, God spoke to me and used an ordinary circumstance to do so, and all of that matters to me more than words can express. 5 years and 3 months of following Jesus and being His, and i believe more than ever that He is in the process of re-writing my biology, and sometimes… just sometimes, He can use a soccer game to do it.
“dark days and cold nights,
you alone put yourself on trial,
hold onto Me for awhile
i’ll carry you over, and pull you from under
the broken glass, the shattered dreams,
it’s not so hard, believe in Me.
i’ll help you get over, and pull from under,
the memories of the shattered dreams,
i wish you could believe in Me.”