Rivals, Both Literal and Spiritual

The small town where I live could pretty much be featured in the show Friday Night Lights. High School and College football is not just a past time, it’s a defining quality. How a person is identified is often decided by the colors he or she wears and may even determine their friend circle. Most wear their alma mater’s colors on respective game days with conviction. A proud banner of their allegiance. Chances are you will be greeted by those same people with the school rallying cry, instead of the expected hello. I have walked into Wal Mart more than once only to be greeted by a “War Eagle” or a “Roll Tide.” If you live as deep in the south as me, this is just no big deal.

My husband is a pilot and he sees a lot of different people in different situations. Recently one of his flights was cancelled, and as he stood at the front of the plane while dismayed passengers were disembarking, he tried to offer some consolation for the inconvenience. As the passengers single filed past him, he noticed a family that was wearing their University of Alabama apparel. He pasted on his best smile and gave a hardy “Roll Tide!” He was both amazed and not disappointed when they all looked up and immediately smiled and returned a “Roll Tide” with gusto. You see, it just didn’t matter that they were disappointed and inconvenienced, Roll Tide made it all better for them.

For me, there aren’t too many things more fun than some type of sporting event. I love the energy, the fellowship and the comradery that comes along with cheering for a common cause. Namely, winning. Well, Friday night high school football is just as popular as NFL football around these parts, second only to college ball, the SEC. Recently our little city had a big game, a really big rival game. They call it “The Battle of Murder Creek.” I have no idea why the creek is named Murder Creek, but that is the real name. I’ve often wondered about it, but I’m not sure I really want to know the answer. Our community is literally separated by this creek. On one side they wear blue and gold and on the other black and red. If you are my friend on social media, you won’t be surprised when I tell you our family wears red and black. We wear it proudly along with all the other good, supportive and perhaps overly zealous parents. My closet has more black and red than any other color. I too am identified by my colors.

Well, as you can imagine in any small town, the days leading up to the rivalry game were filled with good natured taunting and lots of anticipation. Both teams wanting their school to win and hold the bragging rights till the next year. The night of the game arrived, and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Emotions were riding high and the stands were packed. The game ball was delivered in a helicopter, what a start! The bands played and the crowd cheered, pom poms waved, fog horns blew, and the fans were on their feet more often than not. The football teams played their hearts out, coaches lost their voices, but, alas, it was not meant to be for the red and black. Blue and gold won the day and we left feeling disappointed but already talking about next year. That’s the beauty of a good rivalry, the loss is only temporary because there is always the next time. And, the next meeting usually brings redemption. I love a good rivalry.

Many of you have been on this blogging journey from the beginning, so you know that I’ve been praying so hard for the Lord to grow me up in my faith. My road has not been easy lately, but He has been so faithful. I’ve literally had to saturate myself in Him to survive. I am not one of those really strong people that shines during difficultly or pain. I try my best to avoid it. But, there are just things in life that are unavoidable and endure them we must. I sometimes feel like those poor souls that were disembarking the cancelled flight I mentioned earlier, head down and disappointed wondering what is going to happen next. But, then someone will give me a rallying cry of scripture or encouragement and I lift my head and am ready to press on. That’s just how life is, isn’t it? We go through ups and downs and we just keep going, we need each other so much.

On this journey I’m learning that, as I am growing up in my faith, the things that I used to lean so heavily on to meet my ever increasing needs—those things that used to help me keep my head up just don’t do the trick anymore. And yet, I find myself still running to them when I feel empty or sad any of the many emotions that one may go through in a day. I am understanding more and more what will fulfill my soul, but I still run back to what is safe and familiar and unfulfilling. These counterfeit “fixes” rival the good things that I know will really help me with inner healing and growth. Kind of like going back to an old habit that you know isn’t good for you, but it is comfortable and convenient. That’s how I feel about putting into practice the new insights the Lord is giving me. Whoever said walking with Christ was easy didn’t have my personality type. But, over and over again, when I do what I know will help instead of what is easy, I find deeper faith, joy and fulfillment. Should be a no brainer to turn from my bad habits, but it’s not. I love that I’m on this journey with One who understands. Scripture tells me that He was tempted in every way and still did the right thing. And, then He sent the Holy Spirit to be my strength and guide so I can do the right thing too. One day, one step, one decision at a time. There’s hope.

You know the funny thing about rivalries with me is as much as I enjoy all the good natured hype, and a good win, I still feel so bad for the losing team. I find myself a mixture of emotions when the game is over, happy for us, sad for them. I know they’ve worked just as hard as we have and yet will walk away with nothing. So, yes, I am one of those potentially annoying people that will cheer for both teams at times. I just figure you can’t have too many people cheering for you. In a game and in real life. Life is hard and there will be wins and losses. I want to be a person on my feet cheering for those who walk with me, and in front of me and behind me. Realizing that we aren’t each other’s rivals, we are on the same team, Christ followers on the long road home. We will be recognized by the “colors” we wear in our attitude and by the way we live our life. Don’t lose heart. Pay attention and listen for the rally cries. Don’t hear them? Stop and listen, they are all around you.

Hebrews 4:15 “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.”

Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”

I’m including the prayer below because I have prayed it a lot lately and it fits so perfectly with where I am in my life right now. I thought maybe you could relate and use it as well.

A.W. Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God”

Father, I want to know Thee, but my cowardly heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from thee the terror of the parting.   I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival. Then shalt Thou make the place of Thy feet glorious. Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall be no night there. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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