It’s a Southern mama’s dream to watch her baby boy run onto the field and take the position of quarterback. Commanding the game, he quickly gestures to reposition players, reads the defensive formation, grunts plays in a voice I’ve never heard before, and steps back to deliver a spiraling 40-yard bullet into the arms of a moving target.
I made that. It’s a good thing.
The moment the center releases the ball, the beautiful ballet begins…and my heart stops as a collective force of over a thousand pounds rushes to flatten my boy to the ground before he can let fly. It’s just a few seconds, but it’s a tense moment as my itty bitty tiny little specky pickle pie is the focus of so much destructive energy.
“Block for him,” I whisper encouragingly into my fuzzy gloves. “Protect my boy. Block, BLOCK, BLOCK!”
If his teammates don’t do their jobs, he can’t do his. If he can’t do his job, the receiver can’t run the ball for a touchdown, and if that keeps happening, they lose the game. In mom terms, if the big boys don’t protect their quarterback, then he gets squished. And that is NOT a good thing.
Football takes intentional coordination of every position to win. A good coach doesn’t haphazardly give a group of kids a ball and say, “go figure it out.” He recognizes a player’s skill set, build, athleticism, and attitude, then places him in the right position to maximize those traits for the benefit of the team. Some boys dream of being running backs, but they aren’t fast. Some dream of being quarterbacks, but they can’t throw. Linemen must be strong, sizeable, and stoic—and that’s not a description that fits everybody. The coach understands that each player is predisposed by various characteristics to be better suited to certain positions. In the right position, the player is more likely to excel. And, all positions are needed.
In 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul urges us to assess how we have been uniquely shaped by the Creator so we can “eagerly desire the greater gifts”:
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.
Each member of the body of Christ is hand-crafted to meet God’s exacting specifications. When God decided He wanted a Sara, He made one, full of the gifts He knew would best serve His kingdom. When He desired an Angela, He created one who held the power exclusively reserved to complete His vision for her life as a servant of the Lord. When He wanted anitty bitty tiny little specky pickle pie, He blew life into him and declared that it was good.
These spiritual gifts are mystical and fantastic favors that can only be effective in community. Whether apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, healers, helpers, guiders, or speakers in tongues, each of these gifts resonates with Holy vibrations only when used in the company of others.
Paul likens this phenomenon to a physical body:
17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
I’m reading a book about achieving health holistically. That may sound New Age-y, but “holistic” just means “complete” or “whole.” In America, we tend to wait until we get sick and then treat the single symptom or affected organ. This book, called the Habits of Health, promotes achieving system-wide well-being in advance of the sickness occurring. Treating the whole body with good nutrition, movement, and positive choices creates harmony across all body parts. As I near middle age, it’s more appealing to take good care of all of me than to take a pill to treat one failing piece.
No one part of the body is more or less important: Can a hand hear? Can an eye grasp? Can a belly button filter your blood? Can a spleen move you across the room? All parts are necessary and should be treated with kindness and care. Sickness in one part can spread to another. An injury can lead to overcompensation or strain in another area.
The opposite is also true: When we lose weight, our blood sugar normalizes. When we strengthen our legs, we avoid falls. When we improve our nutrition, our skin glows and energy soars.
As Paul reminds us:
But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
The body of Christ would do well to rejoice together in community, to lift up the brokenhearted, carry the sick and injured, and encourage everyone always through our God-given spiritual gifts. We were bestowed these very specific gifts to nourish each other by His word, His prophecies, and His teachings. What you have to say, I need to hear. If you keep it inside, you are silencing your divine voice and depriving me of the gift He gave you to share. My spiritual gift is prophecy. If I receive a sign or vision and don’t offer it to you, then you miss the benefit of this unique insight into God’s plan.
God knew what He was doing when He created football. He made people in all shapes, sizes, temperaments, and aptitudes—then assembled them into a team, gave them some rules, and set out a purpose: Work together to put that ball on the other side of the line.
There will be obstacles, but you hold them back so your teammate can run past them.
There will be fumbles and dropped passes, but you pick up the ball, toss it to the referee, and try again.
Sometimes you ride the bench for a while and let someone else have a go at it.
And, when you make the front page of the paper, you give the credit to your team and give the glory to God.
Sara joyfully serves as a worship leader, health coach, and government official in Juneau, Alaska. She and husband Mike are raising two zesty football players within walking distance of an ice field the size of Rhode Island. This year, they shared their yard with a mama black bear and three roly-poly cubs. Sara has 11 years in recovery and seeks daily to use her spiritual gifts to encourage others on their walk with Christ.