Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Broken dreams and silent screams

It was a big day, a chance for redemption, an opportunity to put things right, the time to restore the natural order.

Crusaders had been recently humbled (humiliated) by Linfield in the Irish Premier League and then beaten by Glentoran in the County Antrim Shield. Belfast's big two had put 'the hatchet men' to the sword. But this was a new day, a day for revenge.

Crusaders are playing Glentoran at the Oval. It's second plays third. The team in second who are not the team they were and Crusaders who are great on their day but, well, it's not their day too often these days.

I was there with three grumpy men of varying ages. There was the pessimistic grump, the optimistic grump, the angry grump and me - the quiet grump. (I should at this point say that it is hard to tell whether these people are grumpy by nature or if it's the football that turns them that way.)

After six minutes our star player gives the ball away on the half-way line. The ball is knocked down the left flank to where our star player should be but isn't. The over-payed Glentoran player whips it into the penalty player where their hugely over-rated centre-forward has a free header. One nil.

Pessimistic grump turns to optimistic grump and says, 'this could be a big score'. 'It early days yet,' he replies. 'That's what worries me.'

Angry grump turns white then red then purple and unleashes a torrent of polite middle-class abuse at our star-player, the manager, the rest of the team and at one point, the ball boy. I remain quiet - It's going to be a long day.

To everyone's surprise, except optimistic grump, Crusaders actually start to improve. In fact by the end of the half they are starting to pass the ball - to each other! They have found a little fight, they are working as a team, they are playing well. It's still one nil but as the referee blows for half time we all can agree that the wee Crues have, overall, been the better side.

As the second half gets under way Optimistic Grump is pushing his agenda, 'You never know,' he says, 'You just never know'. 'Oh I know,' retorts Pessimistic Grump, 'it's going to be a big score.'

The wee Crues continue to play well, continue to press up the field. Nice movement, decent passing, more drive and vigour than the first half. But then the Glens break forward, we're exposed at the back, they get a corner. The ball is crossed in, the header away is weak, it falls to a Glentoran player and he shins it into the net. Two nil.

Optimistic Grump looks deflated. Pessimistic Grump is resigned to his fate. Angry grump is apoplectic, he rages at everyone around him even the burger stall attendant feels his wrath.  He would rip up seats and throw them at the dugout if he could, but he's 70 and has a heart condition so he doesn't bother. I just sit and open my mouth in a silent scream.

Crusaders rally and score. It's a good goal but too little too late. Even optimistic grump is non-committal about the chances of a revival. That's wise for no sooner had the shore-road men rallied than Glentoran had got their third - another mistake, another soft goal.

Angry grump left. The three of us remained slumped in our seats. Optimistic and Pessimistic joined me in my silence for the remainder of the game. Hope had left the building.

We couldn't believe we got beat.  Sure the crues did not play perfectly, they made mistakes but nothing major.  They played well enough to win, they just didn't.

Sometimes life feels like that.  We feel like we have been beaten by situations where we are not to blame.  We do what's asked, we do things right and still defeat follows.  It's not fair.

Thankfully Life is not like football.  In life, for the child of God, defeat does not exist.  God is always winning and constantly moving us forward on our holiness training.  What can appear to be a serious defeat to us (the plan that collapses, the promising situation ruined by others, the getting nowhere after years of effort) is a part of our training.

Life is hard and at times painful but at the end of it, where-ever and when-ever that may be, if we are God's, we will look back on it and see that the times of discouragement, of pain and of confusion were the times when God was moulding us, teaching us and growing us.

19 But you, LORD, do not be far from me.
   You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
   my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
   save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
 22 I will declare your name to my people;
   in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
   All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
   Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
   the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
   but has listened to his cry for help.

Psalm 22: 19-24


Apologies for the lack of post yesterday, it was not my fault. my internet was down.  God-willing the technical problems are over now.

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