Saturday, September 22, 2012

A game

Beve and I are watching my Alma Mater, pejoratively called "Nike U", play football. Beve was born in the city where I went to college, which is just one of the many so-called coincidences of our lives. Only God could manage to put such a list together. I knew his family had history in that place when I picked up my life and moved there to go to college. Of course I did. His dad wasn't exactly a small figure in our town, and his shadow still cut a large one over the gym where he'd played basketball and I sat high in the rafters 30+ years later. His free-throw records hadn't been broken yet, his name and picture were in the glass cases I walked past to climb the many steps when the student ticket lottery pulled up my number...which wasn't often.

I loved that place, that school, the vine-covered old buildings and the river that ran past where, on warm days on each end of the school year, my friends and I would walk across a foot bridge to swim, or to the football stadium where we'd cheer our then-hapless team. Even when they lost, which they usually did, it was fun to be out in the autumn with friends, enjoying popcorn and each other together.
And I loved being able to ride my bike all over town because it was flat; after spending my life among the hills of the Palouse the Willamette Valley was quite a change.But mostly I loved the friendships and community that grew up for me in that town among my college friends.

This is what happens in college. This is why people feel allegiance to the places where they get their degrees. For the first time in many people's lives, community is not determined by someone else's decisions (parents'  employment) but by one's own. And therefore, college is the first opportunity people have to really find identity.  So they take to heart the idea that they are now (and forever) Ducks, Horned Frog, Seminoles, Blue Devils, Cougars.

But here's the thing: such monikers aren't real. Such allegiances are only skin deep, no matter what the most faithful of fans might think. No matter how much you want to argue with me, or shake your fist that I would dare be a Duck and NOT a Huskie...or whatever.  The whole thing is like...

Well, it's like the Emperor's New Clothes, to tell you the truth. I guess it's looking at these fancy, endless array of uniforms Nike's trotted out for my University's team that got me to thinking about this. And building such facilities as has been built on that same university's campus, the one that looks a little like a giant church, might be--dare I say, IS, like a house built on sand.  It's all good and well to root for a team, to be cheer for your Alma Mater (and, trust me I do it. In fact, my allegiance is like a tug-of-war, having roots in one university town and gone to another!). But for those of us who love Christ, we have to see how superficial it all is. We have to--always--look at it with both enjoyment for now but a large grain of Kingdom salt.

But when I think about life in this way, it occurs to me, that many things we get caught up in, that we are roused to the point of  'taking sides' should also have that same Kingdom salt shaker sprinkled on them. Political differences, for example. Denominational ones. National pride and borders.

It's not possible to completely know what all will matter when we leave this world to dwell forever with Him, but He's pretty clear in some ways. People matter. Salvation matters. Holding lightly to the things of this world.

So, let's hold lightly, even as we cheer loudly. Put on those T-shirts with the logo on them but maybe even laugh at ourselves as we do it, recognizing that whatever we're cheering for, is, after all, only a game.

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