At least once in his life every man needs the experience of coaching little league baseball or pee-wee football. It’s an endeavor that will bring you both tears of joy and tears of frustration. Like one day at football practice, when a little 9 year-old told me, “Coach, tell them not to tackle me. I’m allergic to grass.” My response, “Well son, maybe you should try basketball.” Or another kid who complained, “Coach, every time the ball is snapped that kid on the other side knocks me down.” My response, “Yes he does, and he’s going to keep doing it until you stop him.” Tears of laughter and tears of frustration.
I remember our first pee-wee football victory. The Buccaneers had just started a pee-wee football program and we were not much of a threat. We were playing 3rd and 4th graders against 5th and 6th grade teams. We were so bad that when we would ask a player, “Are you ready to go in?!” They would often reply, “Not really.” We took more than our share of lumps. In those first two seasons, not only did we not win a game, we only scored a single TD and that was by accident. The cheerleaders gave the boys a cake inscribed with buttercream frosting, “Congratulations on your Touchdown!” It was hard to stay positive, but we kept telling our boys, wait until you get in the 6th grade and we can play an evenly matched game. Keep working hard and things will be different.
That third year, we finally had a legitimate team. The boys pushed themselves in the pre-season and we were ecstatic to travel to Columbia, Mississippi for our first battle. And a battle it was. There hasn’t been a Super Bowl played to this day with that much heart and rugged determination. Midway through the 4th quarter the score was tied 0-0. You can imagine the eruption of emotion when one of our defensive backs picked off a pass and returned it for a TD! We went on to our first victory ever with a score of 6-0.
We won plenty of other games after that, but none were as sweet as that one. I still have a picture with my son Christian on the sideline after the game, both of us drenched in sweat. Our boys knew that night, their hard work had paid off…they were becoming a football team.
As a believer, it’s easy to get discouraged with fellow Christians. We have much in common with my little football team. But by God’s grace we get to experience that same exhilaration time and time again as we stand on the sidelines watching God’s people become what God has called us to be. When we see Christ-followers reaching out to the broken and the forgotten people in our community, we feel victory. When we see people sharing burdens and caring for one another sacrificially and generously, we feel victory. When we see people offering God’s hope to the hopeless and God’s love to the loveless, we feel victory. So, don’t lose heart…we are becoming the Church.