I’m not sure when it was, that I became so utterly absorbed in the world of international football (or soccer, as we call it). It may have been when little, never-before-allowed-in-the-game Iceland bested the mighty English (2-1) in Euro Cup 2016. Watching one-tenth of Icelanders chip the hoarfrost off themselves, and show up in France was extraordinary. Something about that huge upset captured my imagination and forged me forever to the game. Europe houses massive, state-of-the-art stadiums, filled to the brim with do-or-die fans. The atmosphere is electrified; a surging mass of humanity in a sea of color and motion. This game is big, big business, and they take it as seriously as a heart-attack. In Europe, South America, and many other countries, soccer is a religion, and that’s no exaggeration.
My favorite part, however, is when the television shot pans into the crowds. Those of you women out there who despair of evoking visible emotion from your man, need to go to a sports game with him. The fans are a prime psychological study. You’ve never seen so much raw, unbridled emotion. Add flags, drums, trumpets and group chants just to capture the sheer, deafening volume, and you’re there. The full panorama from hopeful energy, to ecstatic triumph, to bone-crushing despair is present, in every age and cultural group imaginable. It’s all entirely, authentically visceral, and unspeakably powerful. I’ve actually seen grown men collapse on each other’s bosoms, sobbing, at the tragic defeat of their heroes. When’s the last time you painted your half-naked body in alternating blue and white stripes (face included), put on the biggest, stupidest hat you could find, and yelled your guts out like there’s no tomorrow? (I’ll bet it’s ridiculously cathartic). This is standard fare on game-day.
Whenever I watch this scene, the worship-leader in me becomes quickened, even jealous. Why is it so easy to lavish this glorious emotion on exceptional athletes and an exciting game, but if somebody spontaneously lifts up their hands in Church, the elders call a meeting! If a person loses themselves in worship for one magnificent second and sings a little over-loudly, heads turn in all directions. I long for the day the absurd, untrammeled energy found in athletic events superimposes itself over Sunday morning worship. Give me a Holy Ghost free-for-all! Give me liberty or give me death, but get me out of this staid, safe, soul-destroying zone of religious correctness! Doesn’t the Word say:
“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise! With trumpets and sound of cornets make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King! Let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof: the world, and they that dwell therein.” Ps 97:5-7
Or this one: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” Ps 103:1
Does this sound tame to you? Worship should be intense, even a little terrifying. It should take us well out of our comfort zone and into the heavenlies. It should be grand, uncomfortable, ecstatic and transforming.
What would be even better is if I could find the Wild Woman in myself again; the one who doesn’t give a rip what anyone thinks; pouring myself out like an alabaster jar before the Lord. Where did that blissful little girl twirling around in her pretty dress, and beating the tambourine go to? Somehow, I lost her in the long march, and I want her back! Don’t be surprised if you see me in the sanctuary, dressed in wild colors and fabrics, singing extemporaneously and allowing myself to find the ‘authentic’ zone once again. I won’t quit until I find it...because the Church is morphing out of her pedantic caterpillar grey into the most unapologetically brilliant shades of butterfly splendor the world has ever seen. She’s going to set the standard for innovative, outrageous, sheer breathtaking beauty, and excellence. And there will be worship, as Jesus is seen in her. This is real, people. We may just fill those stadiums yet ourselves, as believers, when people find the Lord is far more worthy of out-poured love and devotion, than even the most captivating sporting moments. I’m finally finding my game-face. Bring it on!!