It was a heady time for yours truly and my cohorts. But after being spoiled by the television choices these days, it's strange to realize that when we turned on ESPN in 1983, it didn't look much like it does now. There were no major league baseball games; the networks had the broadcast rights to those. Ditto with NBA, NFL, and countless other "important" sports that we actually wanted to watch. So we had to watch whatever incredible sporting events ESPN could find to air. One of those gems was Australian Rules Football.
We watched in amazement, trying to figure out what the rules were. The officials behind the goals looked like they were overdressed, even for a royal wedding. The players would run for a while, then bounce the ball off the ground once only to run some more. They kicked the ball and passed it to each other by holding the ball with one hand and hitting it with their other fist. We were mesmerized and mystified. What in the world was going on? And how could the score be 95-71? We learned a scant few of the rules and a little of the scoring system after about a month of watching the broadcasts. Mostly we liked mimicking the Aussie accents of the announcers. After all, we still were a little bit lost watching the action.
Somewhere in the midst of that stadium, there was a game being played complete with specific rules, a detailed scoring system and even a crowd of fans who knew infinitely more about the game than me. There are times when I feel that way about life in general. Things happen. Stimuli cause responses. Yet some people make evil decisions which don't seem to hold any consequences while another person does the right thing only to be hurt. And I sit on the sidelines trying to figure out what is going on and where I can find out more about the game being played out in front of me.
Job was another one of us who looked upon the conditions of the world (and of his life) and couldn't figure out why a good and loving God would let things happen as they do. Job knew he was a pretty decent guy, yet in a 24-hour span he had lost his riches, his family, and was stuck with three friends who only accused him of being responsible for all of it. Philip Yancey writes in Rumors of Another World,
"Sometimes I rail against the mysteries and sometimes I accept them. As a starting point, I take for granted that a creature's proper response to God is humility. Accepting creatureliness may require that I, like Job, bow before a master plan that makes no apparent sense.
It seems almost that God isn't there at all, instead treating the world as the deists claim -- winding up creation like a clock, then setting it down to watch it wind down. Yet the Bible tells us this isn't the case. The existance of Jesus Christ Himself proves that this isn't true. So why isn't God active in everyone's life every day? Well for starters, sometimes we don't ask. And the non-Christians in fact tell Him to get lost. And for some reason God honors our choice to reject Him. Yancey puts it like this:
Ashtonishly, the Creator seldom imposes himself on his creatures. It requires attention and effort on our part to "remember your Creator," because the Creator slips quietly backstage. God does not force his presence on us. When lesser gods attract, God withdraws, honoring our fatal freedom to ignore him.
How strange that God listens to the free-will choice of rejection from those He has created. Unfortunately those who send God packing never seem to realize what a loving God they are giving up. God is not a God who controls us beyond our will. He does not compel us to be with Him, to listen to Him or even to acknowledge Him. And the consequences are not always visible in this world. If I were God, I would be tempted to shoot a lightning bolt near the kid who mouths off to his parents. I might shake the earth a bit under the feet of the pervert planning to abduct some child. And an Osama bin Laden wouldn't be causing anyone any troubles right about now. But God does things differently. In our pride, our instinct is to say that we are right and God is wrong. Stupid pride. Stupid us.
Although I don't always understand and I can't always explain the rules to another person seated beside me, I trust the One who created the "game" of life as well as the stadium we "play" it in. When I feel like Job waiting for an explanation from God or like a viewer trying to make sense out of a foreign game, I have to stop and remember that my understanding is not necessary. But my faith is.