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Reprimanded But Not Defeated

So I left my my son’s tournament soccer game in tears Saturday. Apparently, I am an offensive fan. Midway through the first half, my son came in to the game. I was excited to see him hit the field. He looked straight at me as I gave him the thumb’s up sign. He smiled. I remember yelling “run fast,” and “let’s see some hustle,” before the whistle even blew. And, I remember saying something like “you’ve got this,” and “win it,” as he dribbled the ball right down the sideline where I was sitting. The next thing I know, there is a man behind me saying, “I know it’s hard, but you wouldn’t want someone yelling at you while you are doing your job, would you?” I chuckled, thinking he was kidding, until I turned around and realized he was serious! I was stunned. I did not know this person, but I realized he had on one of our club jerseys and was carrying around a bag of balls. Apparently, he’s a coach, but not my son’s. I also realized he was a parent of a child on my son’s team whose family had just coincidentally plopped beside me on the sideline. He had just shamed me in front of dozens of parents from our team and the opposing team. I was mortified.

After I had been reprimanded, I sat in silence for the rest of the game. I thought back over the few comments I had made, and there had been absolutely nothing negative or derogatory. And, I don’t know enough about soccer to be a sideline coach. After years of watching it, I still don’t understand the positions and where kids are supposed to be. I was just cheering for my kid!

I don’t think the man saw the tears streaming down my face behind my sunglasses as I slumped down in my chair. But, I was not about to say another word. Instead, I just observed all the things happening around me. This was the second game in a row that my son’s team was losing 8-0. In both games, our boys had given up 3 goals in the first 2-3 minutes of the game. You could see the defeat on their faces. The opposing clubs had parents jumping up and down and yelling wildly, encouraging their kids. The parents on our team, however, said very little. (Mind you, there was little to celebrate.) They did clap politely when our goalie made a few stops. But, I felt like I was watching the Wells Fargo golf tournament, not a 9-year-old boys soccer tournament! The other teams slaughtered us decisively. I could not help but wonder if the encouragement of the parents from the opposing teams, or lack thereof from ours, made a difference.

At the end of the game, I walked in silence to the edge of the field to wait on my son. After telling him he played a great game, I told my son I thought I owed him an apology. I asked him if I said anything that was upsetting or inappropriate during the game. He looked at me incredulously and said, “Well, no, Mom!” He thought about it a second and then said, “Actually, you were too quiet. Why didn’t you yell for me the second half? I just smiled and hugged him. Even more tears streamed down my face. Good or bad, I have conditioned my children to hear my voice when they are on the field. I am sorry that my enthusiasm is not appreciated by the current club for whom my child plays. (Apparently, I missed the memo on parent etiquette at the games.) But, my fervor is appreciated by my kid. He was listening for my voice. I left that tournament, crossed back across state lines, and drove an hour in the opposite direction to my daughter’s softball tournament. I arrived to catch only the last inning and a half of a first-round elimination game. However, I was definitely around my people. There was yelling, there was cheering, and there was total encouragement to these girls on the field. My daughter hit a gorgeous fly ball to left field. Unfortunately, it was caught, and she made the last out of the game. We may have lost, but my daughter and her teammates came off the field smiling and knowing that their families were behind them. I waited for her to gather her gear from the dugout, and we headed toward the car. I apologized that we arrived so late and did not see the whole game. She said she knew exactly when I arrived as she heard me from the stands yelling, “Go T-Belle!” She too was listening for my voice!

I thought a lot about my experience on the fields on Saturday. I thought about my children’s reaction to hearing my voice from the sidelines. And, I thought about how we listen for encouragement in our everyday lives. To what voice do we listen? Aren’t we called to encourage one another? To spur one another on to good things? The verse out of Hebrews continued to roll around in my head:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, . . . encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24–25).

As I crawled into bed Saturday night and opened my Bible app, my daily devotion was out 1 Kings 19:11-13. In the passage, Elijah is hiding in a cave as Jezebel, wife of Ahab, is pursuing him and trying to kill him. An angel comes to him and tells him to go outside and wait on God as He is about to pass by. First, a loud wind comes that shatters the rocks and tears the mountains. But, God is not in it. Then, an earthquake comes, but God’s voice is not in it. Then, fire comes, but God’s voice is not in it either. Finally, a gentle whisper comes, and Elijah recognizes that’s the voice of God and he needs to respond. He steps out of the cave to meet God.

I somehow don’t think that passage was a coincidence as my daily devotion. Despite the distractions of thunder, fire and lightning, Elijah new God’s voice. That’s the voice to whom he responded. In the same way Elijah listened for God’s voice, my kids were listening for my voice on the sideline. God did not let Elijah down. He came and provided direction and encouragement. And, I’m not going to let my kids down either. I may sound more like thunder on the sidelines than a gentle whisper, but I’m still going to be there cheering them on.

In our daily work lives, we can feel defeated. It can seem like we’ve had multiple goals scored on us in the first few minutes of our day. No, someone may not be yelling at us in our jobs. But, we may receive an unexpected email that derails us. We may learn of a restructuring we were not expecting. Or, we may have to deliver bad news about a diagnosis or downsizing. We may feel downtrodden and frustrated. We may need a cheering section. To what voice will we be listening for encouragement?

I encourage you to listen for your heavenly daddy‘s voice. My kids will be listening for mine.

So, I may be in the doghouse in my sons soccer club, but I’m still in the loud obnoxious mom yelling for my kids! I can’t wait for the next game!

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