Posted in Discipleship

A faithful response to Sunday sports

How would you or your child respond to a soccer or baseball or hockey game scheduled on Sunday morning? The story below, although fictional, shows us the struggle, but also a faithful response arising from faithful parenting born of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

Across town, the Joneses were pulling into their garage. “Are you hungry?” Rebecca asked. “Yes,” Jeremy answered. “Not you,” Rebecca smirked, unbuckling her seatbelt. “The other redhead.”

Robbie was already out of the SUV, dropping his cleats by the door and making his way into the house. Rebecca frowned. Her son had been unusually quiet the entire ride home, especially considering the fact that it was his RBI and double play that had clinched tonight’s victory. He hadn’t said a single word on the drive out to his grandpa Evan’s house in the country, and once they had turned back toward home, he had spoken only when his dad had asked him questions about the game.

“What do you think, Robbie?” Rebecca tried again, following him into the kitchen. “Care for a sandwich?” “No, thanks.”

This was definitely not normal behavior for their son. Typically, the starving fourteen-year-old downed two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, an entire bag of Harvest Cheddar SunChips, and half a gallon of chocolate milk after every game. Robbie abstained from his usual fare, however, pouring himself only one glass of orange juice from a carton in the refrigerator and taking it with him upstairs. Rebecca looked meaningfully over her shoulder at her husband standing in the doorway, but Jeremy only shrugged.

The sudden gush of the upstairs shower could be heard. “Did he say anything to you?” Rebecca asked. “About what?” “I don’t know.”

Robbie was their middle son, and while Rebecca didn’t have favorites when it came to her children, she felt a special kinship with this freckled string bean. Maybe it was because Robbie’s orange hair and long face were the spitting image of Jeremy’s. Or maybe it was because his stubborn streak burned as brightly as her own. Or maybe—Rebecca’s throat tightened again. She swallowed hard, willing her eyes to stay dry—maybe it was because his heart was as big and as generous and as sensitive and as kind as her sainted mother’s. She swallowed again, fighting for composure. Whatever the reason, whenever Robbie hurt, she hurt.

As soon as she heard the shower turn off and the bathroom door open, Rebecca climbed the stairs and knocked on Robbie’s bedroom door. He was lying on top of his covers, the Treasury of Daily Prayer open on his pillow.

“That was some play tonight,” Rebecca started, pulling out his desk chair and helping herself to a seat. Years ago, she would have sat directly next to him on the bed, but things were different now. Robbie was older, and he preferred to govern his own personal space these days. “Nice RBI too.” “Thanks.” “Can I bring you a piece of pie? Mrs. Scheinberg dropped a whole pie off for you this afternoon. It’s cherry. Your favorite.” “No.” “Did you put your socks down the laundry chute?” “Yes.” “Your shirt?”

Robbie stood up and left the room for a moment. She heard the closet door with the laundry chute being opened and closed, and then he came back to sit on the bed, leaning his back against the wall. “How’re your ribs feeling after that dive?” “Fine.”

Rebecca studied her son. “What did Coach have to say after the game? Did last week’s rainout get rescheduled?”

Robbie didn’t answer right away. He fingered the gold embossment on the edge of his book and furrowed his brow. “He said that Hamburg can only work in a makeup game this weekend.”

“That’s short notice.” Rebecca felt a flash of irritation. Robbie couldn’t drive yet, and it was expecting an awful lot of families to be able to rearrange their weekend schedules with only three days’ notice. She immediately started thinking through how to make their driving schedule work. She’d have to drive up to Cantrall on Friday afternoon to pick up Frankie from camp—Davie would stay—and then they’d all have to turn around the next morning— “The game’s on Sunday.”

Rebecca’s stomach turned. Robbie’s subdued behavior suddenly made perfect sense. She tried her best not to overreact—not to let her anger show on her face—but her immediate impulse was to jump up and call Coach Keller on the phone and give him a piece of her mind. Instead, she pressed her lips together and endeavored to give the man the benefit of the doubt. “Sunday afternoon, I suppose?”

Robbie’s head was hanging so low, his chin almost touched his chest. “It starts at nine in the morning.”

Rebecca felt her face fall. There it was. She knew she shouldn’t be surprised. She and Jeremy had known this was coming for years. Why, by the time she herself had entered high school, the local school board had already been in full support of sports teams hosting practices and games on Wednesday evenings—a time that previously had been reserved for catechesis, church services, and the holy things in life. They had called it Wednesday Blackout, but by the time she was a senior in high school, Wednesday evenings were no more sacred to the community than Friday night lights.

Somehow, she and Jeremy had miraculously been able to get Davie through wrestling and marching band without any major kerfuffles, but with the way the world was going, they knew the assault on Sunday mornings was inevitable. She just had hoped it wouldn’t happen this soon. And with Robbie’s beloved baseball, of all things! The devil left nothing untouched.

Evan’s voice began to replay in her head: “We keep the Sabbath Day holy in this family.” She opened her mouth to remind her son of that, but the look on Robbie’s face stopped her short. The struggle was real. But so was his faith, and she wanted to give him a chance to confess it. “What are you going to do, son?”

“I don’t know.” Rebecca closed her eyes and prayed, Lord, help him! “I mean, I can’t miss church. It’s one of the commandments and all, but …” Lord, help him! “… Coach said I’ve got a real chance to make varsity this year. I just need to get in more time at bat.” Lord, help him! “But Grandpa Evan said, well, you know. And Curt needs me. But if I miss a game, Coach said he’ll bench me for the game after that.”

Lord, help me! Rebecca opened her eyes, dismayed, her respect for that man plummeting to the first floor. Again, she fought the urge to call him and tell him what she thought of his ludicrous expectations for teenage boys and summer makeup games, but Robbie was a young man, a confirmed member of the church, and he knew right from wrong. He could handle this. She calmly repeated her question. “What are you going to do, son?”

Robbie looked up for the first time. He tried to smile, but she knew that his heart was breaking. “I guess I’m going to sit on the bench next Tuesday night.”

Rebecca couldn’t help herself. Teenager or not, her son was getting hugged. She crossed the room and squeezed her ruddy giraffe with all of her might, and when she finally stepped away, she cupped his freckled face in her hands and said, “No RBI or double play could ever make me so proud of you as I am right now.”

Schuermann, Katie. The Harvest Raise (pp. 50-54). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.