Some of you know that I volunteered to be Timothy’s AYSO soccer coach. I had the best of intentions. Spend time with Timothy since I had been coming home after 7:30pm every day for the past few years. Get to know other parents in the community. I know nothing about soccer so we had a rough pre-season game. But we won the last game 6-0 so I’m feeling pretty good about this season.
But I have my moments of regret. I heard of the term “soccer mom,” but I didn’t know why soccer got that special distinction. Why not basketball mom or football mom? It’s because soccer takes parent and coach involvement to the next level. For basketball, you just show up to the court and you play, that’s it.
Not soccer. There are literally 50 teams, 9 people per team, each parent pays $150 per kid. This is a big deal. Esp. if you are playing for the San Marino / S. Pasadena AYSO region, which I don’t know why we joined because we live in Alhambra. As soon as I volunteered, I got about 20 emails. When is practice, who is the team parent, who is going to work on the team banner, coaching tips, forms that need to be filled out and signed, what field are we practicing on because there are about 6 different fields and each field is divided into 3 sections.
And yesterday, we had an opening ceremony and I don’t know how it’s done in other regions, but ours was too much. We had to get out there at 8am and the stands were filled with parents and the field was covered with kids and their banners and one team at a time would come out with their banners and walk around the track as their team name was called out and the parents were cheering. I thought, this is child worship. Then, we had our picture taking slot at 11:30am so we had to go home and come back. Then our game was at 2pm. We had to go home and come back. It was an all day event.
I can understand AYSO — they want to make it meaningful for the kids. But come on, these are like 6-7 year olds. They just need 2 goals and a ball. And let them run around and have fun. And as a parent, I want what’s best for my kids. But there are only 24 hours in a day, and as a Christian, I have to draw the line somewhere.
God has been prompting me to simplify my life for many years. And I want to extend that same challenge to everyone here. We can’t pursue all that the world has to offer and expect that we can have all that God has to offer. We are finite beings. We are limited.
Examine your thought life and your actions. Is there room for God? Do you create pockets of time to worship God and spend time with him?
Not a quick devotional as you are running out of the house. Or a quick lunchtime prayer. But some extended times with God when you can gaze into his beauty and you can praise him and you can thank him for all he has done in your life. And times when you reflect on the cross and the price Jesus paid to save us.
It would be great if God spoke through a message, as he often does, and we are pierced to the heart and our thinking and actions do a radical 180 degree turn. I pray that this would happen far more at this church. But sometimes God works in reverse. He prompts us to take some kind of action. He urges us to change some habits first. So that we can create space for God to work on our hearts.
A few years after I started working, I began to date Jackie. This was around the end of 1998 to the beginning of 2000. By then, I thought I was pretty spiritual. I was serving in the college ministry. I was spiritually disciplined. I felt I was mature and ready to serve. But there was one problem. I had an idol. It was romance.
I grew up as an impressionable youth during the 80s, the era of 80s love songs. And music really touches me deeply. I hear a good song and it moves me to tears far more than 10 great sermons. That’s just how I am wired. And lyrics like”you’re the meaning in my life, you’re my inspiration” really shaped and molded me.
And more than Jackie, I was in love with the idea of love. Romance was my idol. And my worship of romance manifested itself in my thoughts and my actions. I was a Christian, I wanted to serve God, but my thoughts were consumed by romantic thoughts. I wanted to obey God, but my actions were about how I could feed this god of romance. And when I was challenged about this idol by some Christian leaders, I was defensive because I wanted to preserve this idol.
And I learned a painful lesson back then. You really can’t serve 2 masters. You can only worship one person or thing at a time. Because worship is all-consuming. It integrates our thoughts and our actions. And as my worship of romance increased, my worship of God decreased. And because of this idol, it almost cost me my faith. I almost walked away from Him. That’s how much turmoil I was in because I knew I couldn’t have both. Thankfully, God spared me because people in my life hung onto me and told me not to let go of God.
So where do we go from here?
Maybe you recognize that you have an idol. First, you need to identify it. Confess it. Idols are so hard to deal with alone. Ask for prayer. And get right with God.
Maybe you’re not sure if you are worshiping an idol or not but your life seems out of balance. Your mind is occupied all week long with physical things and worries. And you are running around from one activity to the next. I know I feel that way many times.
I want to end with a few practical suggestions.
1) Take time to smell the roses. We’ve all heard that phrase. In other words, slow down, That’s secular wisdom to not race through life and to miss out on appreciating the small things. I know when my mind is racing and I feel like I am too busy, lately, I can feel God telling me to slow down. Even while walking or driving, slow down and pray. Maybe we’ll be able to pick up more on the small ways that God is constantly reaching out to us.
2) Introduce beauty into your life. That’s one thing I am reminded of from Rom 1. Paul says men are without excuse because God can be easily seen through the beauty of nature. So intentionally schedule in a walk through a beautiful park or stroll by a lake. Go on a prayer walk. Take your bible with you and meditate on Scripture during these prayer walks. Listen to a beautiful song and reflect on God’s character.
3) Simplify your life. There are many activities that we ought to cut out. Not because they are evil, but simply because we need to create space in our schedules for God to speak into our hearts.
4) And as you are trying things things — slow down, introduce beauty into your life, simplify your life — reflect on the 2 questions I posed earlier: What are your thoughts consumed by and what do your day-to-day actions reveal about what you really believe?
The answer to these questions will point to the idols in your life. Ask God for help to surrender these idols and to refocus on the most essential thing — worship of God. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.