{Disclaimer: This post is written in complete jest. This post is also written in complete seriousness. Don’t read if you don’t have a sense of humor, discernment and a deep love for the Ole Miss Rebels}

Say what you want to say…..

“God doesn’t care about football.” “It’s just a game.” “It doesn’t matter in light of eternity.” “It’s not in the Bible.”

You can say all those statements and I wholeheartedly agree! God really doesn’t care about games. An actual game is just that, its a game. A game itself doesn’t determine eternity. It doesn’t matter a flip and who the heck cares? You can’t find football in the Bible. You won’t find a single reference to basketball, soccer, tennis, golf, baseball, volleyball, checkers or even Uno anywhere in all the Bible. IT DOES NOT MATTER. And you’re right….it doesn’t.

So if it doesn’t matter in eternity, should it matter to us on earth? Because here is the deal for our family… We love Jesus at our house. He is the head of our household. If you ask our children what is most important to us, they won’t hesitate to say “Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.” But ya’ll, in the shadow of that, we really LOVE football and we really LOVE our teams. (Whew, glad to have that off my chest.) I won’t apologize for how much we love football because I tell you what, our kids (and their parents) learn more about life, love, integrity,(and lack thereof) from watching sporting events together on a Saturday than arguably anything else we do as a family. And why is that? I can think of lots of reasons but I think it comes down to this; It’s because in the disjointed, disconnected world we life in, games bring us together for a common and united goal. We guard and we value that time together. You are right in saying games don’t matter. But do not miss this truth… people matter. And ya’ll, guess who plays games?! PEOPLE do. So, have your own opinion, but here is the bottom line for our family… The people who participate in games matter to God and they are the apple of His eye, their names are engraved upon His hands. And, we also welcome anything that unites us as a family and I bet you do too! So….at our house we are going to continue to watch and play games and in the process learn more about loving Jesus, loving others and bringing Him glory with our lives.

We are Ole Miss fans. Red and Blue to the core. On the good days, we are happy fans. On the pitiful days, we are mad fans. But no matter what they do, how the play, what choices they make, we are loyal fans. My husband and I were raised by our parents to love those Ole Miss Rebels. We, ourselves, attended school there and further deepened the allegiance. We have our own family now and the brainwashing commenced in the hospital on Saturday, September 25, 2004 when Ole Miss lost to Wyoming 37-32 and we had to turn the game off to deliver the baby. We laughed, looked at our newborn and said “Welcome to the world of being an Ole Miss fan, little guy. It’s not really fun…but we are committed, buddy.” Since then, you will find us faithful every Saturday from September to December and if we are lucky, also around New Years bowlgame time if we somehow get 6 wins. We follow basketball, we follow baseball, basically we just love to hear of the successes of our school. It’s engrained and we love it, celebrate it, and do not apologize for it.

This year, in particular, the allegiance has been intensified. We’ve noticed that there is a difference in the way we love our team. We started the season as any other…hoping for the best but honestly, expecting mediocre to slightly above average, as we always do. Within a few weeks of play and a huge unexpected victory over the #1 team in the nation, we begin to buy-in to the hope that this wasn’t just your typical season, it might be that magical, championship type season. There was excessive media hype and an incredible sense that this wasn’t the norm…this was special. It was so fun. I mean, really fun. But, like all good things in life, at some point it began to break down. A tough gut-wrenching loss to possibly our toughest rival. Then a devastating loss in the last seconds of a pivotal game in which we suffered a blow that hurt the most, as we watched one of the most beloved team leaders sustain a season-ending injury. I know there are children starving, widows who are uncared for, disease, pestilence and the like, but….No need to heap more guilt upon our first-world heads…We get that. But for us, and maybe you too, a cause we believed in was hurting and therefore, we hurt as well.

But friends, I’m here to tell you this… We have grown as people of faith this season as a result of being fans of the Ole Miss Rebels. For real, I am not kidding. And interestingly, we are watching our children grow and learn about life as well. So….humor and indulge me and let me tell you what we are learning. OR, there is always the option to stop reading, and that is totally fine too…

1) Winning is something. But Integrity is everything. Win on the field, YES. But winning on the field means nothing if you aren’t winning off the field. We have a coach who lives that message. Love God, Love People, and DO THE RIGHT THINGS. And when you haven’t done the right things, evaluate your life, make changes and go the other direction. That’s called repentance and it’s a biblical life lesson that our coach lives out everyday and challenges his players to do. Sometimes you work hard, like Denzel and Laquon, and you get hurt anyway. And the next day, our 10 year old son watched and was amazed as Laquon Treadwell addressed his fans not with a bitter spirit, but with one that says, “It didn’t kill me, so watch as I become stronger.” I remember sitting in Vaught-Hemingway stadium with my own Dad at a certain Ole Miss/ Vandy game and watching the courage and strength of Chucky Mullins who carried himself on and off the field with integrity and perseverance until the very end. It impacted me then, it impacts me today. We, as a family, appreciate seeing that in real life athletes as our children are watching. People may break the rules and never be penalized…But YOU keep on following the rules. People may talk bad about you…But YOU hold you head up and keep doing right. Our kids have seen that in this team and it has sparked dinnertime conversations on how we live lives of integrity for the glory of God. We have seen a visual example of that in our leadership, and we appreciate it. We are better people because of it.

2) Sometimes it pays to be conservative. Sometimes you have to risk. Wisdom is knowing when to do each. Sometimes, running it up the middle on 1st down works and you gain 8 yards. Other times it just never works and you get stuffed every time. Learn when you can pass safely and get the short yardage. Learn when to throw downfield and risk the possibility of interception but feel the thrill of the provision of a good solid catch. These lessons are life lessons, not football lessons. I want my kids to play and live in educated safety, but oh my goodness, to see them risk and soar while using great wisdom??? Well, it may be hard to watch in the moment, but the way we grow in faith in those moments defines our life and our character. William Carey once said that we are to “attempt great things for God, and expect great things from God.” That involves educating ourselves in faith and yet taking critically timed risks. We have watched that growth in every game this year and we are better because of it.

3) Treat others the way you want to be treated. Play hard for the LOVE of the God who made you and the ones around you. This is exactly the way our coach says it. “You will play out of great love for one another.” And long before Hugh Freeze uttered the words, he heard them from Jesus who gave us these words and also perfectly modeled them. “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” -Mark 12:30-31 We really do need each other. And we really are commanded to love each other. Not everyone is good at what you’re good at. Not everyone has your giftings. Praise the Lord for that! Oh, that we would see that as a tremendous asset in our daily life and not a liability?? THAT, my friends, would be a game changer in every aspect of life, especially in the church itself. We have watched this team LOVE each other well and we appreciate that. It’s not something we are accustomed to seeing so our eyes are wide open as we watch the way they have attempted to model it. Not perfectly, but wholeheartedly.

4) There will be lots of miscommunications in life. Deal with them, forgive, and move on. Glorious victory proves a lot about a person. So does sickening, humbling defeat. I would dare say a person can’t experience the abundant life Jesus gives without experiencing both fully. Our coach may not have communicated every play clearly, the quarterback may not read the situation perfectly, sometimes we lose our level heads and run our mouth too much, sometimes we miss a chance to go for the field goal to tie it up, sometimes we fumble in the end zone. WE ALL DO IT. We all mess up and we all sin. We all lose our heads and mess things up. It’s called sin and we will battle it our whole lives until we die. But how do we deal in the aftermath of miscommunication, hurt, loss, defeat? Well, we can fester and we can cause division. Oh yes ma’am, we can. OR we can communicate clearly, forgive, re-group, unite, and press on to the next obstacle together. And THAT is what we have watched this team do. We have watched and learned from it. I hope we do that better in our home as a result of seeing this team do it right. We have failed each other and we will continue to do so….but we can unite and grow stronger as we love and forgive each other’s shortcomings.

 5) When you celebrate, celebrate BIG. Rush the field, tear down the goalpost and carry it around town! Throw your fins up, yell “Hotty Toddy” and hug each other hard! The Ole Miss family has done that this year and ya’ll, its been a blast. And its not over!!! Our family has done that in our living room. We’ve danced, we’ve screamed, we’ve tackled each other in JOY and we’ve had a ball!!Thank you Ole Miss Rebels for giving us times to experience the thrills of victories and the deep agonies of defeat TOGETHER. Those moments are when you solidify life and loyalty to each other. We wouldn’t trade those moments for anything.

Til the day I die, I’ll celebrate my alma mater, the University of Mississippi, Ole Miss …in the joys and in the days of defeat. You will find me loyal not only because of what I’ve seen and experienced but because I believe we are always capable of more. Isn’t that what life in Christ is all about? He is faithful and loyal to us to the end not necessarily because of our actions, but usually in spite of them, and for some reason He continues to cheer and pursue because He knows, HE KNOWS we are capable of much more. So He cheers for us!! I’m blessed by that. And if football helps me see that truth about me God a bit more clearly? Then, I will continue to love and embrace this game that teaches me and my family a little bit more about being who God longs for us to be.

HOTTY TODDY friends!! Win or lose the game, lets cheer til the end.
For the love of faith, family, and Ole Miss Football,
Mysti

 

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