In our day to day lives, in the sports world, I often hear the phrase "it's just a game." In fact, I catch myself saying that as well. When tempers flare up or I see someone stressing, it is absolutely the right thing to say. It is just a game. It is just a test. It is just a spelling bee. It is just a performance. You get the point.
Here is what I can say to that. Yes it is just a game and there is no need to measure your whole self worth based on the outcome of that game. But every time one of my children goes out to compete for something, I feel like my heart leaps outside of my chest and takes the field with them. It is just a game but I know how much they have prepared. I know how much they want to win. I know how badly they want to do their best.
It is just a game but all eyes are watching. The crowd is rooting for you before the first play happens. But your mom is on the sidelines with butterflies in her stomach because she knows this means a lot to you. She is full of pride when she gets that first look of you in your uniform. She is proud because you had the courage to just get out there. You make a good play and the crowd cheers. Depending on your mom's personality she may jump up and scream with excitement. Or she may just nod an atta boy at you. Then you make a bad play. You throw an interception, miss a tackle, or forget your lines. The crowd can be forgiving or down right mad. And then there is your mom. She may get mad. She puts her head down and cringes because she knows you are already tough on yourself. She feels your disappointment and the crowd's. She feels the tension. She feels every move you make. She knows you have to keep going. So she prays for you to pick yourself up and to muster enough strength to finish.
You may even get hurt at times. She will feel like someone kicked her in the stomach. She may tell you to suck it up even though she is hurting for you. But she will also be the one to pray over you. She will make sure you get well and she will pray some intense prayers to God. She also knows that God has a plan for you and that your worth is not based on your performance. She sees into your future and knows that this is just one competition, one game. You will have plenty more in your life. She will be there for every one she can be. She prays that she doesn't miss a moment.
As a mom, I know these feelings all too well. I have said many times, especially when emotions get out of control that it is just a game. But I feel like my whole world steps out onto that field. I will never forget when Christian was young and still playing baseball how I would have to walk away when he pitched. I couldn't handle the pressure. I couldn't handle knowing the ball was in his hands and he was either going to walk a batter or strike him out. One game he hit a kid. This particular kid wore glasses and stepped into the plate rather than away from it. The ball hit his helmet and caused his glasses to cut his eye. There was blood everywhere. Naturally, the kid's mom screams and runs to her son. Christian sat and watched and I knew he felt terrible. As his momma, I knew he was done for the game. But Coach kept him in. I sat and watched him walk batter after batter after that. The coach still kept him in. I wanted to crawl in a hole because I felt every emotion. Part of me wanted to yell at the coach and say take him out. But I sat there and endured the downward spiral. After the game, there I was along with Dad telling him to keep his head up. Now looking back, I realize that was just one game and he would have many more games to play in his lifetime. That game is just one part of many memories that have been made over the years.
Yesterday was UIL competition day for Bo. This is the first year he has competed in such an event. I watched him prepare for months. The night before the event his stomach began to hurt. He was in tears and you could tell he didn't feel himself. We prayed together. I reminded him how he can continue to pray on his own and how it isn't selfish to pray for yourself. He finally went to bed. When he woke up that morning he still wasn't well. I offered for him to back out and he said no with more tears in his eyes. He told me he wanted to go. So off we went to the school. When we got there he was still in tears. One of the teachers reassured him it would be fine if he wasn't able to compete. I even offered to take him so he didn't have to ride the bus and bring him home early. He got his composure together and told me he was fine and that he was going. I left in tears. I knew he had worked hard and wanted to be a part of this competition. I prayed the whole way home. Well he made it the whole day. Then I arrived for the awards ceremony. The audience waited patiently as they called all the winner's names in each category. I watched Bo from the other side of the room. I smiled at how he and his friends cheered loud and proud for their fellow classmates that won in each category. When it was time for them to announce the top 6 in the category he competed in, he glanced over at me with a smile and a look of hope. When all names were called, his name was not one of them. I was disappointed for him but then he gave me the sweetest look. He smiled at me and shrugged his shoulders like it was alright with him. Afterwards he told me that he would get it next year. It was another teachable moment. You won't always be first and you won't always win. But strong people get back up and try again. They also can celebrate in the successes of their friends. Sure my momma's heart wanted his name to be called. But my love for that boy doesn't change because it wasn't.
I have always said that God teaches me so many life lessons through my children. God is a parent. I know he sees every challenge we face. I think he feels everything we feel. He knows when we have prepared to step out. He also knows when maybe we are in a fight that may be bigger than us. I am sure it breaks His heart when we fall but He extends His hand to get us back on our feet. He equips us with all we need. When we humble ourselves, He promotes us just at the right time. Sometimes we get the trophy and sometimes we don't. But God knows that we are worth more than any trophy or any participation ribbon. He tells us to press on. He is our biggest fan even when everyone else may be against us. He doesn't love us based on our performance. His love is unconditional. We may have blown it on the mound. But He knows the greatness that is still inside of us.
People always make fun of me because when I watch a professional athlete blow it on the field, I think about his momma. When all the fans are booing and wanting his head on the chopping block, I know somewhere his momma is sitting in her seat with her heart in her hand. She still has to love him through it. She will be the one telling her son that she still loves him and is still his fan. She will have listen to every negative comment and try to tune it out. She may even go a little momma bear on some one. When it is all said and done, she will tell her son to stand tall. She will tell him that he is worth more than some game. Because after all, it is just a game, right?
Yes it is just a game. It is a game that teaches us determination and perseverance. It is a game that teaches us to work as a team, to put our heart out there for others. It is a game that teaches us passion. It is a game that teaches us adversity and how to overcome injury. It is a game that sometimes lets us stand on the platform of victory. And that same game may knock our face in the dirt. It is a game that is worth playing when God is on your team.
It's just a game. Yes, you are correct. As a mom, a piece of my heart just prepared to take the field. It's just a game and I am here to watch my favorite player.