Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Empty bleachers...full of spectators.

Last night I was sitting at dinner with some friends. We had been eating and talking for quite a while, when the restaurant manager came over to our table. He was pouring more water for us and then he asked us, "So what's the topic of the night?" He wanted to know what we had been talking about and we were all caught a little off guard and stared at him for a few seconds. I finally answered him, "divorce and re-marriage." We all chuckled a little because it's not exactly a light, fun, table conversation. He replied, "Oh ok. I was just wondering, because I saw you all pray before you ate and then I walked by a few times and over heard parts of your conversation. My eavesdropping can probably get me into trouble sometimes, but I was just curious as to what you were talking about."

He watched us pray and then he listened to our conversation and watched the way we interacted.

When I was a sophomore in high school, the recruiting process for college soccer began. I felt a lot of pressure because it seemed as though every game and every tournament carried extreme weight in determining whether or not I would play soccer in college. Because it did and, as someone once said to me, "someone is always watching." What she meant was that I couldn't slack in any game I played, even if it seemed 'meaningless,' there was probably some coach from some college watching. The way I performed (whether good or bad) in that particular game could change the course of my life. Now, I know that's going to the extreme. The point is that my performance was constantly being watched and critiqued and evaluated to see if I met the standards, to see if I really could step up to the next level, to see if I really was the player they saw on paper. What they saw in a forty-minute half of a soccer game was their glimpse into the type of player I was. I had forty minutes (if that) to show what I had been training for, for the previous twelve years.

Jesus said that people will know us by the way we love one another (John 13: 34, 35). Paul, likening us to an aroma, says that God spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Himself through us (2 Corinthians 2:14). Paul also says, in Colossians 1:27, that God has chosen to make His mystery known through Christ, who is in us, and we are the hope of His glory.

Someone is always watching. During the college recruiting process, it's more evident. In life, it's not always so. The man at the restaurant saw us pray. That's it. We hadn't said a word to him but he made a note of it, assuming we were Christians, and then he watched the way we acted. What if we had been arguing with each other and making rude comments to our waitress? What type of message would that be communicating?

I'm not saying that we have to be perfect. We will fail in loving each other well. That's the whole point: we aren't good enough, but Christ is. We confess and apologize for the ways that we fall short. And then we keep on loving.

We are the hope because Christ is in us. That has huge implications when you think about how God wants to use you to draw other people into His Kingdom. During my soccer games, I had less than 40 minutes to show them what type of player I was. Sometimes we may get only a few minutes, or a few hours, or a few days to interact with someone. Sometimes, we won't even get to use words, they will be watching from a distance.

Someone is always watching. What do they see?

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