Ihad a major surgery late last year that left me laid up in my recliner at home for several weeks. As a result, I found myself watching most of the World Cup, which has since ended.
Of all the sports I grew to love as a kid, soccer was not among them. I never played it, I didn’t understand the rules, and there wasn’t enough scoring. Not to mention, I could never understand why an attacking offensive player would at times drive hard toward the goal and then suddenly pivot and kick the ball 50 yards backward to a teammate.
As I’ve grown older and come to appreciate soccer a tiny bit more, I now understand that an advancing player often retreats the ball for a number or reasons. Sometimes there are too many defenders who will easily take the ball if he continues forward. Sometimes there are not enough of his teammates in position. In other words, sometimes the offense pulls back a bit because it’s not yet in the best position to score.
Hold that thought.
It’s the first month of 2023, and so many of us use the new year as an opportunity to make resolutions and set big goals. Nothing at all wrong with that, but from a spiritual perspective, I wonder how often we plan all our desired life destinations in such a way that we get ahead of the Lord.
We are wired to score. Our culture has conditioned us to attack the goal. It’s incredibly difficult for us to imagine a scenario where we pull back and kick the ball backward, so to speak, because we’re not quite ready to push ahead. Of all the spiritual disciplines, I’ve found that waiting on the Lord is among the hardest.
I can think of a number of circumstances when I prayed about a direction I wanted to go in my life, and immediately after saying “amen,” I was already heading in my predetermined direction—not waiting to see what the Lord might want to do. Because of this, I have a few testimonies (and a few scars) about what happens when you charge ahead toward the goal when the Lord hasn’t cleared the path. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding,” the proverb urges. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Where do you want to go this year? What do you want for your life? These are legitimate questions we should all think about. But I pray this year that you and I will find that the “what” and the “where” are not nearly as important as “Who” is with us as we walk through the days ahead.
Some of us are starting what is going to be a great year, while others of us will end this year feeling as if we’ve walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Either way, there is no greater place we could be than in the presence of God. Not behind Him, not ahead of Him, but right there with Him—even if He doesn’t seem to be opening the path for what appears to you to be a clear opportunity to score.
In the game of life, that’s the real win.