OK, I admit it. I am caught up with millions of people around the world. I am watching soccer. Sorry, “fútbol.” I have gotten caught up in World Cup fever.
I have to admit that for years, I felt that soccer was a waste of time. I saw it as a game where people ran around a huge field, kicking a ball and flopping around when they are touched, all while their crazed fans tried to kill each other in the stands. But recently, I sat and watched a little of a match. A few days later, another match aired and I watched some of it as well. To my surprise, I began to enjoy the game as I learned the rules and saw that the game involved strategy and extreme skill by the players. But in that second match, I saw something that confused me.
As one player brought the ball up the field, another player tried to stop him and ended up knocking him to the ground. As the player rolled around on the ground like he had been stabbed, the referee blew his whistle, reached into his pocket and held up a dreaded yellow card.
The crowd erupted, the players protested and I figured out that this was the similar to an NFL referee calling a personal foul in American football. Recently, I have seen that I have received yellow cards in my life, and in a place you would not normally expect them…the church.
If I am honest, I have always associated the church with a deep sense of guilt. I always felt that there was a high standard of roles and responsibilities that came with being “a good Christian” and I did not meet them:
- I “must” be in church or I am sinning – YELLOW CARD
- I “must” serve or I am sinning – YELLOW CARD
- I “must” be a certain way or I am not a real Christian – YELLOW CARD
- I “must” enjoy church or there is something wrong with me – YELLOW CARD
In church, I always felt like I was doing something wrong or not living up to be the Christian I should be. My yellow cards piled up and soon I simply gave up. If every Sunday meant getting a yellow card from God, then it was not worth it. So, I gave up. I stopped going to church and quickly my Christian walk became a solo act. I still felt guilt for not going to church, but at least I did not get “the yellow card” from others. Looking back, I wonder where did that guilt come from?
In Romans 8:1 it says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” So obviously this guilt did not come from the Lord, so it must have come from someone else, ME. Like the Pharisees before me, I found it easier to believe in a God with rules and regulations than in one who loves me unconditionally. In fact, I still struggle with this lie. When I miss church, or do not tithe faithfully, I am haunted by guilt and a sense that God somehow is angry with me.
But, thanks to the Lord, this is changing. I am trying to give myself less yellow cards. Or, as my daughter told me, “We should blow the whistle, hold up a green card and tell everyone, ‘It is time to PLAY!’”
I think the Lord just smiled.