I make no apologies for my love of hockey. As a kid growing up in Detroit, I had skates on my feet as soon as I was able to tie a knot. My neighbor was a relative of Gordie Howe and I remember him coming by once to skate with his nephew.
My parents and the other young parents in the neighborhood would flood their yards, and since none of us had money for fences, the yards froze into one massive ice rink.
My dad found a huge parachute at the military surplus store and hoisted it above our yard along with strings of lights to allow us to enjoy night skating. I still can smell the homemade doughnuts and hot chocolate my mom provided for the neighborhood kids.
Of course, I was glued to my TV during the women’s hockey match between Canada and the US. Forty years older than most of our girls, I was making every play with them, hollering along with the crowd in Socchi.
The teams were both exceptional, in my opinion. I understood the competition was fierce. The Canadian kids I remember came out of the womb with a pair of skates on their feet. Instead of rattles, Canadian moms give their babies hockey sticks.
As disappointed as I was that the US team didn’t win the gold, I felt entirely comforted by the fact that second place to Canadian hockey players is still an honor. A silver medal after playing a group of athletes who have blades in their DNA is quite an accomplishment. Sure gold would be better, but…
I talked at the TV as the cameras panned the sad faces of the American women after their defeat. Their grief and disappointment was likely felt by every American, and especially by those of us armchair skaters. I wished I could have been there to encourage them.
Yet, I watched their sadness and grief realizing how much of life ends up like a silver medal.
We are given many opportunities to duke it out in competitions. Our life skills, relationships, and spiritual walk many times feel like an intense do-or-die battle. How many times we may have felt that we are nearly home free, the goal just within reach, and from out of nowhere a fiery puck knocks us down on our knees and we are kept from our desired accomplishment?
I thought of a friend whose Christian husband recently divorced her after forty plus years. She is a professional and worked the majority of their marriage. Her husband built a large successful business during their time together. Blessed with two children who have both grown into successful professionals, they survived the near death of the son. A gorgeous home with property and livestock surrounded them for over forty years.
He divorced her last fall and was married again in two months.
The American athletes had the scoreboard in their favor and were defeated in the last few seconds of the game by a precise blow that changed the course of all their efforts and devotion. Just like my friend; she had just retired and hoped to reap the benefits of all those years of work, Christian faithfulness, and effort, only to be defeated in the last few moments of her marriage by a blow from out of the blue.
I was also reminded of our final battle in life. Will we be overconfident that our efforts to serve God will be enough, only to realize in those last few moments we find ourselves defeated by a blow from nowhere; nowhere, meaning from the great deceiver himself, who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy us?
So, life is like hockey because we can work hard, train, plan, hope, and expect, only to find ourselves knocked down in the last seconds without warning. A silver medal for an athlete is really great nonetheless, but when we are at the end of our life, or marriage, the tears of our American Olympians are just a tip of the iceberg to express the wail of defeat. We, like the Olympians, have one shot at this life, to seek the Gold. How many will wail and cry in defeat when they find themselves in shock to realize that all their efforts were in vain?
The good news is this. With Jesus, we always win the gold. Like the athletes that lined up at the end and bowed their head to receive their medals, the official will distribute the medal earned by the appropriate team. Jesus has won our medal, once for all, and we can be assured of His provision for us. Instead of the flag of our country on our jersey, we will bear the wash of His blood identifying us as His own.
Congratulations, girls, all of you. It was a great game, eh?
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/photosofsrilanka/3723230001/”>Dhammika Heenpella / Images of Sri Lanka</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>