Kim is a college professor by weekday, but works hostile mob patrol at the week’s end.
A Saturday morning moonlighter, Kim stands on the front lines—or rather the sidelines—of American youth soccer fields. You’ll find her bravely canvassing the crowds of lawn chair-clad parents, grandparents, bored siblings and panting dogs. (After a bad call, sometimes the parents pant too.) Her mission: To remind spectators that their little person on the field (despite any under-the-table-ice cream bribes) is not a professional, but is instead . . . eight.
When Kim first described her weekend gig I thought she was joking, but no: At the season’s start you sign up for snacks, team pictures AND parent patrol. You bring the 100% juice boxes with gluten-free snacks—and you also come ready to rumble.
What is this madness? I thought.
Then I, too, became a card-carrying soccer mom.
Now I park my camping chair along the sidelines with the others. We swap school intelligence about homework, the book fair and the kid who swallowed her tooth at recess. We sip hot coffee out of Yeti knockoffs, personalized with crooked stickers that express our individuality. But when the whistle blows, our eyes are glued to the field. We cheer and yell (there is a difference) as our offspring contend for glory. But, we do so with civility.
Surely we don’t need Kim, I think as I zoom in on my son upfield with the ball.
Until, I hear them.
There are voices.
Teammates call for the ball. Opponents and supporters scream, “Steal the ball!” The referee warns, “Stay behind the ball or offsides!” The coach yelps, “Something ball!” (inaudible), drowned out by the . . . Row of sideline-encroaching-self-deputized coaches shouting contradictory messages about the ball (#parents).
Finally, there’s my son’s internal voice. It likely vacillates between, Up the field, towards the goal! *What’s offsides, again? * And most importantly, How long do I have to do this until that SNACK?
Suddenly I realize that dribbling the ball, even a few feet through this verbal chaos, is some kind of small miracle.
We DO need Kim, I concede.
How can anyone choose with all of this noise? (And we wonder why half our progeny out there opt for chasing butterflies instead . . . )
So, I bite my tongue and remind myself that whatever pearl of wisdom I have to offer at the top of my lungs will never be as brilliant as World Cup and Olympic champion Abby Wambach’s. Abby chooses to hold back on her daughter’s sidelines. (Which is a good thing, since I’m guessing neither Kim nor any other parent volunteer would want to rumble with that.)
My moment on the soccer sideline was last fall. It feels light years away. You’d think it would be quiet here after almost five months of relative isolation. But there are voices, intrusive and loud.
I know you hear them too. They hale from the sidelines and on the field: mixed messages, dystopian headlines and fractured feeds. (The irony as I add my own voice to the fray here is not lost on me. You’re welcome.) They scream to us about everything under the Corona sun. Wanna start a Facebook fight? Try posting,
“Masks: Go!“ or
“Baby Yoda 2020” or
“Artificially Flavored Juice.”
Cognitive dissonance accosts us at the highest of decibels. I flash back to fall, and feel a new solidarity with every eight-year-old soccer player. I need Kim, I think, or at least a version of her.
How can anyone discern anything, with all of this noise . . .
“What is truth?”
. . . The governor asks Jesus and steps out of the Praetorium to face His jealous accusers. Their words are still ringing in his ears.1 In this moment, Pilate has to choose—with a thousand voices pressing in. This whole scenario seems all too familiar:
Religious leaders spew out their laws, play the politics of Rome, and demand a guilty verdict.2 The crowd, egged on by the aforementioned, grows riotous roaring, “Crucify Him!”3 Pilate’s wife warns him to steer clear of “that righteous man” after a disturbing dream.4 His own internal and then external voice pronounces Jesus guilt-free.5
There is one other voice in Pilate’s ear. It is blaring, not in decibels, but in truth. This voice answered the governor’s “truth” question the night before he even poses it, telling his disciples “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the father but through Me.”6 Now he speaks to Pilate of a “Kingdom . . . not of this world.”7 The angry crowd persists and Pilate chooses. He washes his hands of the Truth8 as they swell the sidelines saying, “His blood shall be on us and on our children.”9
And so it was and is.
As I stand on what’s left of this scorched-earth field that is 2020, I’d much rather close my eyes, plug my ears, and plop down on the last tiny patch of grass that remains. Or maybe just lose myself in the flight pattern of an obliging butterfly.
Still I, like Pilate, must ask: What is truth?
And still I must choose.
I don’t have Kim. She’s over a thousand miles away. But maybe I can cultivate some quiet here; some distance from the screaming sidelines: a timeout of sorts—with 100% juice (or the kind with Aspartame that tastes better). Maybe one less political wrangle or news feed? Some social media distancing, perhaps? (Maybe not that. Because I’ve changed SO many minds there . . . )
Then maybe I won’t have to strain so hard to hear the voice I must measure all others against, as I press on and up the field.
“Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” – Jesus
Maybe I don’t have answers to most of my questions, but I’m starting with this:
If His Kingdom really is otherworldly,
then I suspect the life, the way and the Truth I chose will be too.
Image Credit: Jason Rosewell from Unsplash.
1John 18:38 2Matthew 19:7-13 3 Matthew 27:23-24, John 18:38
4 Matthew 27:19 5 John 18:38 6 John 14:6 7 John 18:36 8 Matthew 27:24
9 Matthew 27:24