On a cool, clear, and quiet fall evening, I walked off the football field with my 7th grade son for the final time this season. Last game emotions are always enigmatic. There is a feeling of relief of not having 5 or 6 days each week committed to practices and games. There is allayment in escaping parental perceptions that their son didn’t play enough, sometimes despite a disappointing attendance record at games and practices. And there is always great happiness in escaping a season without serious physical injury to any of the boys.
However, I also was filled with a great pride in how much each individual boy had improved in skills, abilities, and confidence. I was humbled and grateful for the feeling of teamwork and camaraderie that had encompassed the team throughout the year. I admired the great men who I was able to coach with, knowing their dedication and sacrifice to be with these boys. I was appreciative of each boy who left his comfort zone and overcame challenges to play a physical and a tough game. Some challenges were in stature, some in skill, some in ability to focus, and some in being assertive at a time in life where everything seems awkward. And the mere act of putting in the effort built respect and confidence individually and collectively.
With these juxtaposed emotions running through my mind and heart, I looked down at my son. A serious accident last year prohibited him from playing. This year I watched his effort go from cautious, to measured, to all out fun. He was able to feed off the energy of others, grow from confidence of coaches, and overcome his critical father on the sidelines. When he thanked me for coaching him as we got in the car, I wouldn’t have traded the moment for anything.
At that moment, I realized I couldn’t afford to miss these opportunities. At the first of the season I had a pretty good list of justifications not to coach. I am a full time university administrator, I teach evening university classes, and also am completing my doctoral degree. I have 5 uber-involved kids, a family farm to run, and a time intensive church calling. I feel stretched, but can’t remember the last time I said I was too busy. I heard other parents use the four letter word (busy) to escape the duty, at times even emphasizing the four letter word (busy) with other four letter words.
One of my heroes has always said that busy stands for “Being Under Satan’s Yoke.” I think that can be taken several ways, but inevitably everyone thinks they are busy. It is not a condition predicated by number of kids, number of jobs, number of positions or titles. I am slowly learning it is a condition we choose to use as a copout, one that costs us meaningful and worthwhile experiences where we can be serving others instead of doggedly guarding our lists of excuses of “busy-ness.” I’m convinced that it is in the times when time logistics don’t add up for us, yet we persist in dedicated efforts to serve others, that God steps in and gives us the most sweet and precious glimpses into pure happiness. Last night, in the dusk of a fall evening surrounded by smelly and emotional boys, I was afforded one of those glimpses.