Sunday, February 22, 2015

40 Things to Give Up for Lent: Sports & Spirituality Style

Lent is a liturgical season that demands spiritual discipline. The 40 days of Lent mirror the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. During His time in solitude, he fasted, faced temptation and committed himself to prayer; it strengthened his soul which prepared him to undertake the arduous passion. 
Whether or not athletes are in touch with their spirituality, they are summoned to discipline the mind, body and soul regularly. When I saw the posting "40 Things to Give Up this Lent: The List" I reviewed it with the eye of an athlete and a coach. I decided add—in italics—how what one can fast from, can pertain to sports. Whether or not you are an athlete "in season" there is an invitation to prepare for Easter in this special way. Determine for yourself what you are hoping to root out and what needs to grow in your heart. I hope this list helps! 

I am reflecting on the first 20 for this posting and the next 20 to follow.

  1. Fear of Failure – You don’t succeed without experiencing failure. Just make sure you fail forward. Failure can be a great teacher for a team, athlete and coach. And in sports, its inevitable. Do your best, give it your all and enjoy. 
  2. Your Comfort Zone – It’s outside our comfort zones where new discoveries are made. As an athlete, the only way to get to the "next level"  is to expand your comfort zone. Go for it.
  3. Feelings of Unworthiness – You are fearfully and wonderfully made by your creator. (see Psalm 139:14). A lack of playing time, not improving, and even injuries can cause serious doubt for an athlete. Believe in yourself and see that Psalm!
  4. Impatience – God’s timing is the perfect timing.This one is tough...there's often little room for patience in athletics. But when improvement is slow, when growth feels latent, persevere. Be patient and trust your coach, teammates and most importantly, yourself.
  5. Retirement – As long as you are still breathing, you are here for a reason. You have a purpose to influence others for Christ. Our work is not always tied to a paycheck. It's hard for many professional athletes and coaches to know when to hang it up. But I think there is a fine art to this. One of my all time favorite athletes, Will Clark retired at the age of 36 as a St. Louis Cardinal. He went out on top with a post-season average of .500. He knew the demands of his family were increasing and his playing days were dwindling. Retiring opens new chapters and opportunities; to me he's an example of knowing when to say when. There's grace in that...
  6. People Pleasing – I can’t please everyone anyways. There is only one I need to strive to please. Pleasing yourself doesn't mean you need to be selfish; it means you know your talents, role and ability. Trust those.
  7. Comparison – I have my own unique contribution to make and there is no one else like me. Where would so many sports be today without the game changers? If Dick Fosbury compared himself to other high-jumpers, athletes would still take leap forward over the bar. He didn't and ever since, jumpers have been raising and clearing the bar.
  8. Blame – I am not going to pass the buck. I will take responsibility for my actions. Call me biased—my grandfather and uncles have been referees. My tolerance for blaming the ref is quite limited. Don't let the outcome of the game depend on close calls. Do your best.
  9. Guilt – I am loved by Jesus and he has forgiven my sins. Today is a new day and the past is behind. Unfortunately, history knows the names of those who have made the "big mistakes." 
  10. Overcommitment – Do less better and accomplish more. During cross country season, I could not believe the number of my athletes who left our practice in order to workout with another team of another sport. Inevitably, these girls face injury and exhaustion. Keep your eye on the prize.
  11. Lack of Counsel – Wise decisions are rarely made in a vacuum. Unfortunately, I have sprained my back from playing golf. Since my injury, I have learned so much from so many different people about their own back problems. Counsel has not brought physical relief, but a huge mental one.
  12. Impurity – Live lives pure and without blemish. 1 Corinthians 6:9 states: Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? SI believe athletics reveals this truth second to none. All the more reason that it ought to be kept free of performance enhancing drugs. It requires tender care and respect. We only have one!
  13. Entitlement – The world does not owe me anything. God does not owe me anything. I live in humility and grace. Playing time is a gift, your position on the team is a open door. Be grateful and help others to be thankful too.
  14. Apathy – Life is too short not to care. Sports are meant to be a form of recreation—a time when we recreate ourselves! To not care about the game or the team is to lose sight of all it can be. My XC team knows our informal motto is "We run because we can." Channel gratitude, not apathy.
  15. Hatred – Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21) I believe athletics is a positive way to challenge negative feelings. The world is an unjust place. People we love fail us. -Isms take hold of too many of our hearts. Let sport be a place where those feelings of disappointment and hatred are exercised out. Yes, there is work to do to root out evil, but that takes stamina as well. 
  16. Negativity – I will put the best construction on everything when it comes to other people. I will also minimize my contact with people who are negative and toxic. Nothing can destroy a team like negativity. A good coach will root it out and maintain a zero tolerance for it. Period.
  17. The Spirit of Poverty – Believe that with God there is always more than enough and never a lack. This is one reason why we love sports. We've seen the athlete or the team that doesn't have much but a whole lot of heart rise to the top. Think of them as Lenten teachers!
  18. Going Through the Motions – The more you invest yourself, the more you will get back. Drills and circuit training can be tedious and trying. But I've noticed that when we give it some spunk, crack a few jokes, and encourage others, it's so much better. And, they always paid physical dividends!
  19. Complaint – Instead of contributing to the problem, be the solution. One of a my mentors, and a great coach, Frank Allocco tells his athletes, "rather than complain, work harder." I couldn't agree more.
  20. The Pursuit of Happiness – God wants something greater and more lasting than happiness. It is called joy. I will be living with the joy of the third World Series in five years until the 2015 MLB champion is crowned. In the meantime, the joy of victory tastes so sweet. Thank you to the San Francisco Giants!
This Lent, move beyond the typical....
Photo Credits:
40 Days: See Weblink above

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