Since my 7th grade team, I was regularly placed on both the offensive and defensive lines. This was likely because I was the tallest player on the team…but with the simplicity of play of 7th grade football…it could have been my inability to comprehend much more than basic play.
On offense, my sole job was to push my opponent…and to know which way to do it. If I pushed to the left, the running back would go to my right and if I pushed to the right the running back would be running to my left…simple. While on defense, I was given the simple task of ripping the guy in front of me to little tiny bits and pieces…and then…attack the quarterback. The coach noticed that I was too dense to know which player was actually the quarterback, so I was instructed to attack the guy with the lowest number.
The game of football was great! Every play was another opportunity to destroy any opponent that stood in front of me.
In 9th grade, things began to change. My coach asked me to start “reading” the offense and shifted me to linebacker. He liked my aggressive play…but he was unaware of my poor reading ability…not only in class…but especially on the grid iron.
“Ryan! You can’t always attack the quarterback! There are times when you need to drop back and cover the receivers or tight ends!”
“But coach…the quarterback has the lowest number.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
My coach also began to make changes on offense. He introduced me to what was known as the “trap.” He instructed, that when the ball was snapped, I was supposed to leave the opponent in front of me and run to my left. This struck me as very counter intuitive. If I left the guy in front of me, there would be no one to stop him from attacking our player with the lowest number. Additionally, he instructed the guys on the other side of the line to let the linebacker come through the line untouched.
I became convinced that this 9th grade coach was not going to see another season of football…he was an idiot…a lot like my 4th grade teacher. In fact he had the same name as my 4th grade teacher. Now that I think about it…he WAS my 4th grade teacher.
“Ryan…when the ball is snapped…I want you to leave your place…run to your left and smack the guy that will be standing right here,” he stated as he pointed to a specific point left of the center.
“No buts…just do it…”
We practiced the play for the remainder of that week and when our next game rolled around, sure enough he called for the “trap.”
The ball was snapped…I did as I was instructed and ran to my left, feeling very uncertain as to what would transpire. I apprehensively left my opponent and ran to my left. Just as I reached the point where the coach had pointed a linebacker appeared. His eyes were like snake slits focused on digging his fangs into our own low numbered guy. Just before the two of us met, I saw his eyes become hard boiled eggs of surprise as I blindsided him into the next county. (Just to be clear…we were already in the next county). As I blew him up, our running back exploded through the gap that was left behind us and scampered for a 65 yard touchdown.
It was at this moment that I went from believing my coach’s words to trusting in them.
Paul reveals a similar transformation in 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16. Here Paul expresses a powerful exhortation to these people who have not only “heard” the message of the Gospel and believed it…but they were transformed by it. Oh, may we become like the Thessalonians, who not only believe in the Word, but are transformed by the Word!
May the Spirit of God transform our hearts to become “owned” by the Gospel of Grace.