Hitting "Pause" on Life

On Sunday afternoon, I settled onto my couch to watch my beloved Dallas Cowboys play their first playoff game in five years. This has been an exciting season for Cowboy fans. The painful mediocrity of 3 straight 8-8 seasons has been washed away by an unexpected surge this season. It's very possible that my hopes of a Super Bowl run will come to an embarrassing end on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field very soon. But for now, I'm excited. Anyway, I settled in on Sunday to watch the Cowboys face the Lions. I expected Dallas to play very well from the opening kickoff. In our last four games, we've always gotten out to fast starts and scored an average of 40 points. So you can imagine my disgust, horror, frustration, and disappointment as I watched the Lions immediately jump out to a 14-0 lead. For nearly the entire first half, the Cowboys couldn't do anything right and the Lions couldn't do anything wrong.

But just before halftime, Dallas scored on a long pass play to narrow the game to 14-7. The only problem was that Detroit marched down and kicked a field goal, making it 17-7, as the half expired. At least we had scored a TD, and I consoled myself that we were "in this," but I wasn't very optimistic about our chances.

Part of my doubt was based solidly on the Cowboys' performance against the Washington Redskins back in October. In a Monday Night Football game, Washington got blitz-happy and sacked Romo several times. He was under pressure the entire game and had to exit at one point with an injured back. On Sunday, I saw the Lions harass Romo in the same way, and if you follow pro football at all, you know how the story ends when Romo is pressured.

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To start the second half, Detroit's QB threw an interception deep in Lions' territory, and I was excited about the prospect of more points. It was likely that we'd come away only down by 3 points—7 max. But Romo was sacked again, then our never-miss kicker missed the field goal, and it was as if the turnover had never happened.

I've seen Dallas play these games before, and they never end well. In fact, that last playoff game I saw Dallas in (January 2010 vs. the Minnesota Vikings) had ended like this. Lots of pressure from the Vikings defense, a Cowboys offense that couldn't do anything right, and a 34-3 drubbing.

About this point in the game, I had to turn the TV off and go to church. I thought about skipping worship to finish the game, but I decided that wasn't a good idea. I am, after all, the preacher and they might wonder where I was.

I'm not the disciplined type to ignore score updates and wait to resume the game when I get home. So as soon as worship was over Sunday night, I checked my phone to see the score of the game and was delighted to see that Dallas had gone ahead, 24-20, and was about to win the game. By the time I returned home, that score had gone final. I got home, turned the TV back on, and hit "play" on the DVR where I had hit pause before.

As I watched the final quarter of the playoff game, I realized that my attitude and emotions were polar opposite of what they had been before worship, and it was only because of one reason: I now knew the final outcome. When Dallas made a bad play or committed a penalty or when Romo was sacked, I didn't get dejected or down in the dumps—particularly near the end when our defensive lineman recovered a fumble, only to give it back to the Lions, I just smiled and chuckled to myself.

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Because I knew he would, just a few plays later, redeem himself by winning the game for Dallas.

If you aren't a football fan, I'm glad you've stayed with me until now. Here's my point: How would your life be different if you lived knowing the outcome has already been decided? As Christians, we can rejoice that Jesus wins in the end, that he destroys all his enemies and places them in submission under his feet. As God's people, we know that there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from his love. As children of the King, we know that we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

When I'm watching the Cowboys play live, I'm anxious and apprehensive during tense, dramatic moments in the action. I live and die with every play. Every long pass by Tony Romo, my heart stops wondering if it will be completed or intercepted. Every play by the defense, I fear a long gain but root for a sack or turnover. But when I already know the final score, I enjoy the game a lot more. The big plays are even sweeter, and the bad plays aren't nearly as disappointing. I'm watching the game, after all, with the end already assured in my mind.

How would life be different if you hit "pause" from time to time like I did Sunday afternoon, took a moment to worship God and remind yourself that the end is already secured, then hit "play" again? How would things be different if you lived remembering that the end has been assured for us?

Heavenly Father, thank you for Christ. Thank you for the victory he gives us by faith. Thank you for your love that is without end. Thank you for the fact that such a meaningless sporting event can teach us so much about life with you. Help us to hit "pause" when necessary, kneel in worship, and remind ourselves of what is truly important so that we might better enjoy the abundant life you offer. May you be patient yet ruthless in transforming our hearts so that we live with the assured end in mind. In Jesus' name...

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