Author’s Note: “Sports and Theology” is returning from a ten-month hiatus. During this time, I completed the editing of my ebook, Clergy Mentoring: The Tie That Binds, and prepared for my family’s move to Salisbury, North Carolina. Thank you for your patience!
Most, if not all, sports compete within seasons. A sports season is clearly defined, beginning with initial practices and ending with a final game, match, or race. The terminology of a sports “season” most definitely comes from the four seasons. No, not Frankie Valli’s music group, but rather winter, spring, summer and fall.
These seasons roll around each year. Regardless of what’s happening on the ground, the four seasons follow with the rhythm of changing temperatures and weather patterns. In similar fashion, sports seasons begin and end during familiar times each year. For example, professional baseball begins with spring training and ends with the fall classic. Each year, baseball fans can rely on when the pitchers report to their teams, when the All Star game is played, and when the World Series will start. The same holds true for other sports, both professional and amateur, each year.
Many people apply a version of this metaphor to a description of their lives. You might hear, “I’m going through a difficult season” or “it’s time for a new season.” I wonder, however, if this language fits. After all, how many life experiences are genuinely repeatable? Perhaps talking about life in terms of chapters, not seasons, makes more sense. Like a novel, our lives follow a narrative flow one chapter at a time. When a chapter starts or finishes (or a chapter’s title) is up for grabs. In fact, the sort of discernment needed to parse the chapters calls on faith, namely faith in God as the giver of life.
My life is beginning a new chapter. Or is it a new season? After all, this is not the first time that I have begun a new pastorate. Nor is this the first time my wife and I have moved with our children to a new community for the sake of my vocation as a pastor.
God is not only the giver of life: God is the co-author of a person’s life story. God’s presence and power are active forces for good. From a Wesleyan perspective, God’s grace does not compromise a person’s free will. Yes, God intercedes, sometimes when we request God’s intercession and sometimes when we least suspect such divine interaction. God calls us to a life of discipleship without coercing our intentions; thus, we do indeed have some say in how our life unfolds, whether a new season (or chapter) will begin or end.
An athlete’s season is only partially dependent upon his or her effort and performance. Other people have an impact on how the season goes: coaches, fans, teammates, competitors, and even journalists. A tennis star can enter a tournament in peak physical and mental condition, but this does not guarantee victory.
Our lives are not isolated, autonomous sprigs. Rather, we are contingent upon the family, friends, and communities who give shape to our moral character. The pen of God’s authorship is beautifully seen in the lives of these people.