Friday, May 4, 2018

What does Sports Chaplaincy Look Like?

What does Sports Chaplaincy look like?
Sports Chaplaincy looks like sunny afternoons at football practices in the heat of August. It looks like quivering lips at the funeral visitation for a coach too soon taken from his team. It looks like the bright lights of a stadium on a fall evening. It looks like the dim lights of a locker room after a disappointing loss. In short, Sports Chaplaincy looks like opportunity. We see the hearts of men and women, boys and girls, in the glaring lights of sports arenas and in the shadows of injury, disappointment, and grief. Each of these moments looks like an opportunity to speak the life of Christ Jesus into their searching souls.

What does Sports Chaplaincy sound like?
Sports Chaplaincy sounds like loud sports arenas; their blaring music, shouting crowds, chanting fans, and bellowing announcers. It sounds like the banter between teammates in a locker room before practice. It sounds like the hushed voices and the beeps of a heat monitor in an emergency room. It sounds like the squeaks on a basketball floor during a scrimmage. It sounds like the crack of bats and pops of balls into gloves at batting practice. It sounds like sobs and sniffles while in the grieving line of mourners at a funeral wake. More simply said, Sports Chaplaincy sounds like peace. In each and all of these sounds, we experience the peace of Christ. Amid the chaos of game day and the flood of emotions in crisis, Christ Jesus carries us by His Spirit in unusual peace and assurance of His presence and provision. Sports Chaplaincy sounds like peace.

What does Sports Chaplaincy taste like?
Sports Chaplaincy tastes like pregame pasta. It tastes like sweat on your upper lip while standing at a midsummer batting practice. It tastes like a cup of coffee with the coach as you discuss the painful options for the career changes that are suddenly at hand. It tastes like the glorious post-game pizza, chicken, or sandwiches on the long bus ride home following an important road victory. It tastes like Gatorade on the sideline as you gulp down some Ibuprofen to ease the pain in the chaplain’s aging joints. More than anything, it tastes like love. To be with the people the sports chaplain loves tastes like love, anywhere and anytime.

What does Sports Chaplaincy smell like?
I know what you’re thinking, but hang on. Sports Chaplaincy smells like the barbecue smoke wafting into the stadium from the tailgate area outside. It smells like menthol from ointment rubbed on sore muscles in a training room. It smells like hot dogs and popcorn at a ballpark. Yes, it smells of the pungent aroma in a sweaty men’s locker room. Mostly it smells like competition. These olfactory stimulations prompt my heart to compete, my pulse to race, and my mind to pursue victory. I love these smells! They are as sacred as incense.

What does Sports Chaplaincy feel like?
Sports Chaplaincy feels like pain in one’s joints. It feels like breathless exhilaration after a thrilling victory. It feels like bitter grief after a disappointing loss. It feels like the rush of pride when a player breaks through a performance barrier. It feels like death when a coach is exposed for cheating. It feels like joy when relationships are restored. It feels like discomfort when riding a bus through the night after a rainy road loss to a rival. It feels like life. All of life’s kaleidoscope of emotions are distilled into the sporting experience for the competitors, the coaches, the support staff, and even the sport chaplain. Sports Chaplaincy feels like life. Isn’t it wonderful?

Sports Chaplaincy, when experienced with an open heart, an inquisitive mind, with fully engaged emotions, and an active body is rich with sensory perception. Go ahead, jump in with both feet. Plunge into the depths of sports chaplaincy. See its marvels. Hear its sonic flood of music and voice. Fill your mouth with its delicious tastes. Breathe in its every aroma. Feel its joy, pain, exhilaration, and grief. It’s worth the risk and the reward will capture your soul. Our Lord walks with us through each and all these experiences. He sanctifies them with His presence and consecrates them in our hearts.

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