I couldn’t take it. I gave up. I quit.
Everything seemed to be going sideways for my Auburn Tigers last Saturday night as they made their 2019 football season debut against the highly ranked University of Oregon. Auburn pretty much looked like the football version of the Keystone Cops. Missed tackles, missed blocks, and missed scoring opportunities.
Halfway through the third quarter, the handwriting seemed to be on the wall and it wasn’t a happy message for Auburn fans. In fact, the message I got was, “Don’t stay up and watch this disaster. You’ll only be torturing yourself.”
When I bailed out, Auburn was down 21-6 and it was already past this old girl’s usual bedtime. Watching the Tigers up to that point had felt like one of those dreams where you’re trying to run away from a bogeyman but your legs are stuck in quicksand.
“Life’s too short to voluntarily subject myself to this kind of stress,” I thought, so I packed it in and abandoned my Tigers. I tried to purge all thoughts of that awful game from my brain by reading a book for a few minutes and then I drifted off to sleep.
When I awoke the next morning, I reached for my phone on the nightstand and checked the score to see just how badly Auburn had been trounced. Still fuzzy-brained, I saw the Tigers had won, 27-21, but I thought I surely must be misinterpreting what I was reading.
How on earth could Auburn have won? When I turned off the game, our freshman quarterback looked to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown, bless his heart. I couldn’t believe Auburn had scored three touchdowns after I went to bed and stopped what had been an unstoppable Oregon offense.
When friends at church that morning asked me about Auburn’s amazing comeback, all I could do was shamefully admit that I, a fickle fan, had missed it.
Fortunately, I’d recorded the game just in case a miracle occurred whilst I slumbered. It was definitely fun to watch the replay on Sunday afternoon, but if I hadn’t already known the happy outcome, I’m pretty sure the tension of that last quarter might have killed me. The Tigers overcame a big deficit in the most stressful ways possible, sealing their win with a long pass with just a few seconds on the clock.
Football is just a game and I know it’s silly to get so worked up over a game, but sports are wonderfully ripe with spiritual metaphors and lessons, as the Apostle Paul recognized when he made reference in 1 Corinthians 9:26 to boxing and running.
This particular football game certainly taught me a spiritual lesson: don’t give up, no matter how difficult and dark things may get.
The Book of Revelation is full of wonderful promises for “he who overcomes (or conquers).” I guess the corresponding truth is that “he who gives up” won’t receive those promised blessings. I experienced a taste of that last Saturday. Watching the replay of Auburn’s big win was nice, but if I’d stayed up and seen it live, my joy would have been over the top (if it hadn’t killed me).
I don’t want to miss the blessings God has planned for those who hang on to their faith until they reach the finish line, but that’s not necessarily going to be easy.
“In the world you will have tribulation,” Jesus told us (John 16:33). But then came the good news: “But take heart,” He said, “I have overcome the world.”
Jesus overcame and if we’ve placed our faith in Him, we can, too. A miraculous, glorious victory is coming and what a tragedy it will be if we bail out, go to sleep and miss it.