Have you ever watched a professional soccer game? Not a kid game but say Brazil or England? They're intense! They are fast, brutal, and unpredictable. The players don't have helmets or pads to protect them. All they have is their training, their skill, and their instinct.
This weekend my son's team suffered a really bad, unfair loss and it got me thinking. Today kids lives can be compared to a soccer game. The team we faced played really dirty. They were taking our kids down from behind, just being really. . .mean. And the ref did not seem to care. We were all left thinking how unfair it was that the team that cheated, won. Some of the parents said " The nice guys finish last again." Then a fellow Christian mom said "Those who are last shall be first." (Matthew 20:16)
In life, there will always be an opponent that wants to beat you. When you become a big enough threat to them, they no only want to beat you but they want to take you out. I have learned the opponent is always there. He is never willing to give up his attack on us. That opponent is Satan. Hopefully every child has a coach to teach them the basics, Jesus, love, kindness, etc. Every child then has a life, a ball, then they must choose which team to play for. Will the basics be enough to defend their morals? No. They need to learn to apply their skills to score (succeed) as they pursue the goal of Heaven.
There will always be fans yelling at them from the sidelines. Teachers, friends, the media... but they won't always be cheering them on. Sometimes they will be trying to persuade them to run the other way. When our kids step out onto the field of life, we can't step onto the field with them. All we can do is pray for protection and watch from the sidelines. It hurts us when we see someone coming after them and hurt them on purpose. We may stand up and yell "FOUL!!" But then we must sit back down and accept what ever happens because we can't go back in time and change it.
At first our little players only go out for a short time. They touch the ball here and there, learning to make passes, making friends, minding their manners as we cheer them on. The older they get, they spend more and more time on the field and less and less time in the safety of our arms. Then one day it happens. Life comes at them too hard and too fast and hits them square in the face! After the tears subside, theirs and ours, it comes time for them to get back in the game. Once our kids have been knocked down by the enemy, our fears want to keep them off the field and safe at home. Reality sets in and we realize we can't, so we put big smiles back on our faces and take our place yet again on the sidelines to cheer them on.
When the teen years come along it seems the opponents come at them faster and faster. Cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, your child starts to sweat and you can feel the pressure on them. Peer pressure then leads to sexual temptations. You can hear the enemy yelling out to your child, "Switch teams and we'll take it easy on you! Just take off your armor!" Your heart pounds as you wonder "What will they do"? Will they stoop to his level to win? Is winning in this life really winning?
It's hard to watch cheaters prosper. It's hard to explain to kids why that happens. And as my kids have told me, it's hard for them to keep their faith and still try to always do the right thing. Doing the wrong thing seems so easy sometimes. And, it's hard for them to watch as their friends seem to give in one by one. "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Galatians 6:9 ASV).
Do our kids listen to us as we're coaching them? Can they hear us? Do they even care to listen except on the occasional water break? Our kids are going to get knocked down out there. Guaranteed. But, unlike soccer games, in life there are no substitutions. We can not send someone in to live our life for us as we sit the bench and catch our breath. As coaches we can go out on the field to pick them back up, dust them off, and encourage them to go on.
Your game plan won't always be perfect. Your whistle won't always work. As long as our children know which team we play for they should be able to pull out a victory and their trophy will shine like no other. "And if it seem evil unto you to serve Jehovah, choose you this day whom ye will serve" (Joshua 24:15 ASV).