by Nick Tucker – Associate Pastor – Youth and Service Experiences
Being a collegiate soccer player through my time in college, my life consisted of homework, soccer, weights, more homework, ministry, and more homework. It was an incredible experience that I would not trade for the world. I loved the days of grinding for hours to perfect my craft on the field. I loved the long bus rides we would take for away games. I loved the feeling of stepping on the field during game day and the rush of adrenaline when the whistle blew for kick-off. I loved it all. But there was something that I always feared through my playing days.
My senior year of college soccer did not exactly go as planned. I was a rough, physical player who had no problem getting kicked or taking an elbow here and there. It was the first game of my senior season and I took a tackle from a player on the opposing team straight into my shin. He came in with his cleat studs up and hit me right above my shin guard. Yes, it hurt but I was able to take some Advil at half-time and played the rest of the game. I continued to play through pain, taking Advil for every game after that until I got tackled in the same spot, studs up again by a different opponent. This time I wasn’t able to even stand on my leg. I actually thought I would have to chop off my leg.
We had played about quarter of our schedule for the season, and I was sidelined for four weeks. I could hardly run or kick the ball so there was no way I would be able to play in a full-on game. My fear of not being able to play had come true and I had to be sidelined for four weeks of my senior season.
It is fascinating to me to look at Christianity as a sport. There are definitely moments in my walk with God where I have felt “sidelined”. The seasons where I feel distant from God, where I don’t feel connected to Him, where I feel tired, beat up, or just done. But the incredible thing about being sidelined is that we were never meant to stay there! Christianity isn’t something we can just sit on the sidelines and watch. It isn’t a spectator sport! Christianity needs us to get off the sideline and back in the game! We were made to be on the field. We were made to do work. We were made to “compete”, for lack of a better term.
I can’t help but think how my senior season would have looked so much different if I had just been okay to sit on the sideline. The fact of the matter is that I could not stand to be on the sideline! It killed me to be sidelined due to injury. I wanted back in the game. I wanted to help my team. I wanted to make a difference and help influence the outcome of the game. I went to the athletic trainer everyday for the rest of the season to do rehabilitation work on my leg. During those four weeks of being sidelined, it was painful. During the weeks after I was able to play again, I still was in pain, but I pushed through because I recognized that I was meant to play. I was meant to get in the game. I wasn’t meant to sit on the sideline.
I love what James has to say in James 1:22, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”
It’s time to get in the game. We can sit on the sideline and listen all day long. Or we can get in the game and do what the word says. We don’t just read the Bible because we love the stories inside of it, we read it because it is the authoritative word of God! In its very nature, it is worthy of a response, worthy of action, worthy of more than sitting on the sideline. Christianity isn’t a sideline sport. We weren’t meant to sit on the sidelines and listen for our entire lives. We are called to action, called to get in the game and start doing!
My senior season didn’t go as planned. We didn’t make it into playoffs. We didn’t even have a winning season. But through it all, God never put me on the sideline. Through it all, I was still in the game. I was still ready to get to work and get to action. God kept me on the field even when my physical body was on the sideline of the soccer field. God kept me in the game and even in the seasons where I have felt sidelined, I didn’t stay there. I got back in the game because that’s where He called me to be.