The joy of sport
If life is like a game, then let's try and enjoy it!
Joy - a state of mind, an orientation of the heart (Theopeia)
Ashton Agar, unknown to most outside of the Australian cricket scene a few weeks ago, is now a household name, claimed as a national hero. The Australian Prime Minister says the day will be renamed in his honour! He was also on both the front and back page of international newspapers.
Joy of a great game
The 19 year old debutant Australian Test cricketer reminded fans of what sport could be about ... joy! He had plenty of reasons to celebrate:
- He scored 98 runs, making him the highest ever scorer for a number 11 (last) batter in the 136 year history of Test cricket.
- He achieved a world record last wicket partnership of 163 with Philip Hughes (scoring over half of the team total of 280).
- He was the team's top scorer, even though he was expected to score the least.
- He became the rescuer of his team, after they were in huge trouble
This is the ultimate sporting dream.
His performance caught our imaginations and our hearts. I couldn't believe the comments on Facebook during his innings. Cricket commentators said he showed no fear, an adventurous spirit. He even smiled when dismissed only two runs short of an unimaginable 100 runs.
Everyone got in on the moment. One of England's most competitive players, spin bowler Graham Swann who finally dismissed Agar, immediately ran to him and said "well done, young fella". One English friend even said most people wouldn't have minded him getting two more runs, then getting out!
The simple joy of children
I've seen street kids in Africa kicking around a ball of plastic bags bound together by tape. Despite living in a garbage city, they were having the best time of their life. When we start out in sport as children, we often have that same pure delight to just play the game. But something seems to change as we get older. If you play at a serious level of competition, the fun can easily get squeezed out, and unfortunately coaches and parents don't do enough to keep a lid on this. We focus on our own needs and desires and forget about others and God. As we play, coach and watch sport, we are encouraged to love God and our neighbours as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).
Sport (and life) should be more joyful
Sport is a good gift of God given for our enjoyment, to have fun, within our level of ability. Unfortunately, it has been distorted and made something less than it can be. That's what makes Ashton Agar and kids playing soccer so refreshing. In a small way, sport is being made new and there is a hint of a joy beyond our everyday experience of sport or life.
Are you challenged to seek more joy in your sport and life? I am encouraged to play and live with a joyful state if mind and a renewed sense of fellowship with others. Most of all, to have a more grateful heart for a good and generous God who cares about all of his creation, not just the 'religious' stuff.
The Bible says:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth [or sport!] which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 1 Timothy 6:17
What we glimpse of joy in God's good creation through sport is just a taste of the joy we can experience with others as we come to know first hand the great joy giver. God, through his son Jesus Christ, offers a deeper joy than any sporting experience, which is here one minute and gone the next.
A prayer for sports fans
God, you created us to use our bodies
to run and jump, to throw and catch;
you created us to use our minds
to think and feel, to reflect and express;
you created us to relate our bodies and minds
to connect with ourselves, each other, and you.
In sports and athletic competition
we can engage our bodies and our minds,
we can connect with ourselves, our community, and you.
God, come near to us now and enjoy your creation
as we worship you, the Creator. Amen.