2016-2_LT-FootballFaith

Current Events/My Culture

What Football Has Taught Me About My Faith

Five years ago, if you were to have asked the question, “Do you want to watch football?” I would’ve turned my nose up at you and probably said, “ugh.” (That’s a direct quote.)

Today, if you were to ask me that same question, I would immediately clear my schedule to make sure I am ready for kick off. Appetizers included.

I don’t know what it is, but I am captivated by this sport – the talent, the plays, the fandom, the rivalries. It may have taken me 25 years of my life, but the more I watch and learn about football (and sports in general), the more I realize it actually has a lot to teach us about our faith. Whether you dislike sports or don’t miss a single game, there is a lesson to learn in looking at football through the lens of faith.

Football teaches us that we are a part of something larger than ourselves.

Say the words “Super Bowl” to any American you meet and they will typically understand it has more to do with touchdowns and less to do with the Guinness Book of World Records. Although the fans and residents of the two talented (and at times, lucky) hometown teams feel so close to the glory that is a Super Bowl title, they know, ultimately, they had nothing to do with that win. Ask me after any loss, and I can tell you quite bitterly that screaming, “RUN TO THE END ZONE” doesn’t make points increase on the scoreboard… Fans are partakers in the glory of their favorite teams as we, God’s children, are partakers in the Father’s glory. We may think our fandom makes a difference in the way our team plays; we can wear the “right gear” and chant the “right cheers,” but ultimately, those things do not matter. God’s glory is not contingent upon how good of a “fan” we are. For, our faith is not about God “winning,” but rather about our participation in His plan – our participation in His Glory. We must share His glory with others, but we would miss the point of God’s greatness if we claimed it as our own.

Football teaches us that loyalty runs deeper than winning and losing.

I must admit, I am a #Cheesehead in a #BirdGang world.

For those of you who don’t speak NFL hashtags: that means I am a Green Bay Packers fan in Arizona Cardinal’s territory. And, let me speak about loyalty from experience: You can get beat (pretty badly) by your current city’s team twice in one season, but loyalty for your “home team” never waivers. If it does, I’d question your fandom with a cautious eye…

History is something that runs deeper than a final score or season record. The more that I watch the Packers play, and learn about their incredible history the more I grow in loyalty and respect for them. The more I learn about my faith and watch God work miracles in my life, the more I grow in loyalty of Him. And, what is so beautiful and so transcendent about loyalty is when the glory fades or life gets hard, you always know who has your back. No matter what.

Football teaches us that no matter what, there is joy in the journey.

If all that mattered was winning the Super Bowl, then players would lose out on all the little wins that come with growing as an athlete along the way. If all that mattered was winning the Super Bowl, then the fan bases of 31 teams would only feel disappointment. Every. Single. Season.

At the end of a heartbreaking loss in the playoffs, Mike McCarthy (coach of the Green Bay Packers) said, “Our team will sleep well because they put everything they had into that football game. We don’t have a loser mentality here. We were a successful football team this year. We just didn’t reach the level we wanted to attain.” Often times, we measure our success by large accomplishments and forget to affirm all of the little accomplishments along the way. As we grow in our faith, it is easy to focus on all that we did wrong instead of all that we did right. That’s why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so beautiful. It allows us the opportunities to attain those little wins – to see what we need to correct in our daily walk, to amend our relationship with God, and keep journeying to our ultimate “Super Bowl win” – heaven.

Football teaches us that a team supports one another, no matter what.

#FootballIsFamily

This was the hashtag I found most consoling this season. In a time of hard feelings associated with the loss of the Super Bowl dream, what was remembered was simple: Win or lose, we support one another.

Even more so, as members of Christ’s Church, we are a family. As players extend a hand to their teammates (and sometimes, opponents) when they are down, as players encourage one another on the sidelines when they are losing, or rejoice with them when they are winning… we are called to be there for one another as Christ’s body. Supporting one another isn’t always easy, for sometimes it means calling a friend out on their bad choices and encouraging them to make better ones. But, supporting one another is worth the challenge. When we support one another, we tell them that we believe in them and we hold each other to a higher standard. We encourage each other to make the best out of all situations and, ultimately, grow as a person.

That is why I love this hashtag. That is why I love to see images of opponents hug at the conclusion of a game. Because in the end, that is the fundamental truth of the matter: we are all family.

So, this Super Bowl Sunday, create a united front.

  • Have a conversation with someone you have struggled to agree with in the past about the things that unite you.
  • Reconcile with a sibling you’ve wronged or has wronged you.
  • Compliment your parents on what you love and appreciate about them.
  • Perhaps, even tell your biggest football rival that they have a pretty good team (looking at you Cardinal’s fans).

And, cheer loud!

About the Author

Rachel Penate

I am a Wisconsin girl at heart who has a slight obsession with the band Switchfoot. When I was little I dreamed of becoming a professional figure skater, but instead found myself studying Education. Currently I reside in the great, yet terribly hot state of Arizona, and serve as Assistant to the Executive Vice President of Life Teen. I love most: my job, the ocean, running half-marathons, my sweet daughter Cecilia, husband Robbie, and above all — my Lord. Follow me on Instagram @r_penate and Twitter @LT_rachelp.