Only one pro sports league is in season now, but somehow it’s one of the busiest, most exciting times of the year for sports fans. The NFL draft was a little more than a month ago, and teams are still finalizing their rosters as they prepare for minicamp and then training camp. Last night the NBA held its draft, and a new crop of young stars entered the league. In addition, superstars LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are free agents, with teams jostling to position themselves to sign them, and NBA franchises are proposing and completing trades like it’s the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
It seems that each off-season is more intense than the one before. Baseball fans have even gotten in the habit of following prospects for years before they ever reach the majors. Every move by every team or player is scrutinized, analyzed, and graded. Our teams’ fortunes rise or die with these moves. We just can’t help ourselves!
The off-season is more fun than the actual games for many fans, especially those of us who root for unsuccessful teams. It is the time of year we can find some optimism, see some (imagined) light at the end of the tunnel, and speculate about how “This could be the year if. …” Then, of course, we play armchair general manager and lay out the perfect blueprint for our teams to get every good player and win every game.
The emphasis on “if” reminds me so much of my own spiritual life. The entire off-season buzz does, in fact. It is exciting to look ahead to hypothetical plans and best intentions. Talking about speculative changes is easier than actually making them. I have so much optimism in the blueprint I create for growth and diligence in spiritual matters. I will try a new Bible reading plan, a new prayer schedule, join a small group, and mentor someone. This year will be different. Things will change!
But when it comes time for the “season” to begin, for putting the plan into action, it fizzles out. All the enthusiasm doesn’t result in progress; it degenerates into frustration. I don’t have the discipline to enact my plan. I get bored. I get frustrated. And this year looks just like the last.
Thankfully, my spiritual life (and yours) differs from sports in a significant way. I am not beholden to the decisions of some questionable general manager. My fortunes and hope don’t ride on the strategy of a man in a suit. You and I are driven and carried by God. We are able to make decisions, to pursue growth, to “play the game” ourselves. We don’t sit idly by hoping for improvement this season; we trust and act, pray and obey. We can grow in discipline, and no matter the challenges we can see improvement.