Last season, my husband was contacted to apply for a head job. While it was exciting, I was totally stressed out. Our latest move was supposed to be the “last one for a while.”
As the interview process began, it seemed to be going well. All signs were pointing to him getting it, so I started to try to wrap my head around starting over again, selling a house again, moving again . . . for the sixth time.
I started praying specifically for that door to be closed if it wasn’t the right move for our family. And I also prayed specifically for the door to open if that was the best place for our family. Lastly, I prayed for peace in my own heart, whatever the outcome.
Coaching is a Ministry
This phrase gets thrown around a lot. It serves as a reminder that what we’re doing matters far beyond a win-loss record. It helps us stay focused on the important stuff especially during the hard, nitty-gritty months of the season.
But if we really believe this, it translates far beyond the relationships with the players.
If we genuinely believe coaching is a ministry, what does that mean for the way I interact with the fans in the stands? What does that mean when we’ve been burned by the administration? What does that mean when we’ve lived in seven places in seven years and have yet to plant roots anywhere?
A missionary is someone who goes out amongst the lost and serves them in the name of Jesus Christ. If that’s not a coach, I don’t know what is. And coaches’ wives play a powerful part in supporting and partnering in that mission.
If we look at Paul’s first missionary journey, we get some insight into what coaching as a ministry might look like when we read through Acts. If we have the same purpose as Paul, what can we expect? How should we respond when things don’t go our way?
Here are five things we can expect when we treat the sports field as a mission field:
There will always, ALWAYS, be opposition when we are determined to shine light in dark places. Satan is NOT happy about it and WILL throw up barrier after barrier to stop us. Acts 13:51 says, “They [the Jews] stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.” Sound familiar? Paul’s response? He didn’t become jaded or bitter. “So they shook the dust from their feet as a sign of rejection and went to the town of Iconium.” He moved on. In the words of Paul/Taylor Swift, just shake it off, and move on to your next place.
God uses adversity to refine us and make us “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4). If we expect discomfort as part of our journey, we can accept more easily when the Lord calls us out of our comfort zones. While in prison Paul writes, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:12-13). Jesus. That’s the key.
When we are living on mission, that might mean staying in one place for several years to invest in the community, or it might mean traveling from place to place to further the reach of the Gospel. Paul spent the last several years of his life traveling, ON FOOT, from city to city sharing the good news of Jesus. If you find yourself moving year after year like me, instead of feeling defeated, take advantage of it. God is USING YOU to further his gospel. Holy cow! High five for you!
Encounters with Hurting People
According to Bob Goff, “If following Jesus doesn’t bring us to hurting and lonely people, then we’re not following Jesus.” In Acts 14, Paul sees a crippled man who has never walked a day in his life sitting on the side of the road and heals him, then uses that miracle to point the crowd to Jesus. One of the greatest benefits of coaching is that our families will encounter kids who will never set foot in a churchbut will show up every day for football practice. What an incredible, and humbling, opportunity to use every victory and every defeat to point to the Lord.
Peace and Joy
When we have an eternal perspective, it provides peace in spite of every move, every disappointment, every hard season. Instead of victories on the field, we see the greater purpose: victories in eternity. When Paul left a place of persecution, Acts 13:52 says, “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” They had just been threatened with death, yet they were filled with joy, because they knew they were doing the Lord’s work. So when he sends us, wherever that might be, we go, knowing that his mission is being completed in us.
While my husband was in the process of interviewing for that job, I had a conversation with a friend who warned me that it wasn’t a place he would want to raise his family. He advised me to live in a neighboring town and let my husband commute, but I knew my husband wouldn’t go for that. He would want us to be all-in.
When I relayed the conversation to my husband later, he asked me what I thought. “If we believe this is our mission field, I know families who have gone to much worse places to share the gospel than there.”
That next Saturday, he got the call. They went with the other guy. And sure, there was a little bit of disappointment (also a lot of relief, if I’m being honest). But because we trust that God is directing our path, there was abounding peace. That job was not for my husband. It was for someone else. And if we trust that God is “working for our good,” then we also trust that we are placed in our current school “for such a time as this.”
What could’ve been devastating news was merely a reminder that we are not in control, nor are we living for our own goals or dreams or purposes. We are only walking the path He sets before us, pursuing the purpose he has for us, on whatever football field, or mission field, opens its gates for us.