Whether it is Aussie Rules or Rugby—League or Union—you can tell when we are getting close to finals season. People who have never given any hint that they know the difference between a try and a behind are suddenly swathed in their team colours, and bringing up their team’s finals prospects every chance they get.
I am definitely not a footy fanatic; I can’t recite statistics or player names and numbers, and I am doing well if I get to more than one game a year. The truth is, I usually only know what is going on with my team by catching snippets of the news, or having someone walk up to me, grinning, and yelling, “How about those Dees!?”
Of course, it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement when your team does start hitting the headlines for the right reasons. Even I find myself dragging out the old scarf and jumper, making sure that everyone knows where my loyalties lie.
I can’t say I feel too much guilt about it, as it’s the same approach taken by thousands of other fans who still get enjoyment from the game, support their team financially as much as possible, and are perfectly content with their level of engagement. They don’t feel that they’re really losing out on anything.
However, if we pause to reflect a little, we might have to admit that there could be a few things we are missing out on. For the diehard fans who come week after week, there is a sense of community. Not only do they get to know each other, the players become familiar faces, too. There is a sense of being on the whole journey together, through the ups and downs, rather than being spectators or latecomers—and perhaps comfort from sharing in the extreme downs that teams like mine go through.
There’s an element of similarity to be found here between faith and football. How many Christians, and I don’t exclude myself, go through periods in our lives where God and church barely cross our mind until there is something significant to remind us of who we have given our allegiance to—instead of a grand final, something like Christmas or Easter, a wedding, a funeral, or even a scare when the doctor approaches with a frown on his face?
It’s only then that we start talking about God in more than an abstract way, put on our Christian colours—both literally and metaphorically—and stride into the stadium, only to find we have missed half the season and we are now playing catch-up. It can be tough sticking with our faith through the hard times, or turning up week after week come hail or shine. And, it can be easy to only think about it when prompted by a special occasion.
Maybe it’s time to ask ourselves what we are missing out on if our faith is like my passion for footy, and how much more fulfilment we might find if we go from being a casual spectator to a card-carrying member.