The contemporary sports world is marked by an unprecedented age of record-breaking athletes, individuals paid hundreds of millions of dollars to jump higher, run faster and work harder than the competition.
However, in the interest of seeking similarities between sports, there is an athletic element of competition present in each and every sport without exception, which has little or nothing to do with the sport itself.
It’s curious that one of the most dominant aspects of athletic competition is the actual lack of competition itself. In every single sport, golf, soccer, tennis, cross country and darts alike, there is a period of time, however brief or however distended, in which little competition takes place.
In swimming, it’s that moment when the swimmers are on the block, and you can hear a pin drop as they await the gun. In tennis, it’s that moment when you’re waiting for your shot to come back over the net. In cross country, it’s that brief moment after you’ve ascended a hill, and you catch sight of the next valley before entering it. In soccer, it’s that moment after the ball is crossed into the box, and before anyone can send it either past the keeper or back into the field of play, you wait.
It’s that period of waiting that allows you to game plan. Time to get between your man and the basket, time to anticipate where the ball will land after the cross into the box. Time for a deep breath before the next mountain, time to clear your mind before the gun sounds and you’re slicing through the water.
And then after the waiting, it’s go time. The gun sounds, and you’re in the pool. The ball crosses the net, and it’s time to send it back over. The ball is in the box. The rebound has reached eye-level. The period of waiting, however brief, has reached its conclusion, and any and all preparations you made during that period of time have now manifested itself.
The parallels to our faith are immediate and obvious. So often, we define those periods of silence in our lives, those times characterized by what we deem a distinctive lack of God’s movement, as simply us waiting on God to act. If sports have anything to say about faith, those periods of waiting can’t go to waste. It’s during the waiting that the preparation happens, so when the ball lands, you know what to do with it.
Did you box your man out? Are you in a position to score? Did you get to the ball before it landed? Do you have enough life in your lungs for the next climb? If the answers to those questions are important enough to define the outcome of a game, how much more important are they when it comes to defining the outcome of our lives?
Don’t catch yourself unprepared when it comes to those periods of waiting on the field of play that is this short life. It’s the waiting that makes the action so sweet.