People around the world enjoy sports: baseball, basketball, football, golf, hockey, rugby, track and field, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, among many others. And as much as we may think that spirituality and sports are unrelated, even a casual fan can notice a team praying before a game, one athlete meditating before he or she steps onto the field, and another pointing skyward and thanking God for a victory.
Even more interesting is what the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) discovered: 25% of Americans believe that God plays a role in determining which teams win sporting events. In addition to God’s role in a game’s outcome, 53% of Americans believe that God blesses faithful athletes with abundant health and success. Yet, 20% of sports fans also believe that their team has been cursed at some point. Still another 28% say that they’ve prayed that God supports their team.
The challenge with these beliefs is that they create a capricious, puppeteer deity, a god which plays with our lives like a cosmic chess match, moving us around on some heavenly game board. It presumes that God chooses winners and losers, establishing a special bracket only one person or team can win at some pre-determined time.
Yet, the truth is: God doesn’t create brackets or pick favorites. Though sometimes, we do. God doesn’t move us around. We choose where we’ll go, what we’ll do, who we’ll be and how we’ll play our own game. We decide whether to make winning or losing the ultimate prize or whether we’ll get into the game for the pure experience and joy of it. When we believe that God plays roles or holds positions, we forget that God is infinite compassion, overflowing grace and unconditional love, a power and presence so awesome and wondrous, we won’t ever fully comprehend it.
As we grow in spiritual maturity, we begin to realize that no matter which playing field we’re on, we choose how we’ll live and how we’ll do what all spiritual masters do: Live as the beloved, divine creations of God we are, no matter which team we’re on. We also stop diminishing others or trying to wrestle the trophy away from someone else. We become masters of our own spiritual practice first. We invest time in contemplation, meditation, prayer and reflection so we can align ourselves with God.
On the way, we also release the need to know how everything will turn out. We walk by faith, rather than by sight. We know someone or some team will win, though we don’t always know which one.
And as we grow, we remember the truth: God doesn’t take sides. God is on all sides, with us, within us, around us, expressing through us, as us. And at any moment, we can change our game and be on God’s side, too.
© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.