“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’ (Matthew 9:36-38).”
The World Cup women’s championship game this weekend went back and forth. One team went ahead, it seemed for good.
Then, a defender for the winning team gave the other squad a gift. She kicked it right to her opponent standing in front of the goal.
Of course, the alert opponent obliged. She kicked the ball into the net and saved her team from a sure defeat.
With the score now tied, the team that had given away a goal scored again. They were jubilant and seemingly on their way to victory.
However, with time running out the losing side scored again. Once more, the teams were tied.
As the rules required, the game was decided on a shootout. The team that had outplayed their opponent on paper most of the game unbelievably missed most of their penalty kicks.
As they had the whole match, the team that had been outplayed took advantage. They made the needed shots in the shootout. They were world champions.
The emotions on the faces of the losing team told the whole story. During the game, as they made one key mistake after another, the ladies’ expressions reflected shock, sadness and heartbreak.
The British TV announcer during all this mayhem described the game with one of the cleverest statements I have ever heard during a sporting event. He called the happenings of this championship a “19th nervous breakdown”.
This reporter got this phrase from a hit of the 1960s by the Rolling Stones. It describes a girl who is flighty and unstable due to a terrible childhood.
In his novel “Bleachers”, John Grisham describes a gathering of former high school football players who remember their own past glories on the field. They show up in their old home town because their old football coach is on his deathbed. They hold a vigil in the bleachers at their old field, now named after there coach, Eddie Rake.
Rake put their small town of Messina on the map. In 34 years as coach, his Spartans won hundreds of victories and many state titles.
However, Neely Crenshaw, the main character of the story and the quarterback of one Rake’s best teams, wishes he had never seen a football. Playing for Eddie Rake was a nerve wracking and even physically harmful experience.
Rake finally was fired after one of his players died during a practice after Neely Crenshaw had graduated. The coach had pushed his players to run the bleachers on an extremely hot day and the boy, Scotty Reardon, died of heat stroke.
While sitting in the bleachers reflecting, one of Rakes’ old players produces a radio broadcast of the state championship game in which Neely Crenshaw had played. Many of Rakes’ former players gather around to listen.
They skip the first half because their school was behind 31-0. The broadcast they listen to begins after halftime.
The broadcaster notes two key points. First, he expresses his belief that in all of his years of doing the team’s games, he doesn’t remember them ever being so far behind at the half. Second, he points out that the team’s coaches are nowhere around.
As the men listen, during the second half the Spartans slowly come back. The game is full of bone-jarring hits, astounding plays and extreme excitement.
What is curious is that Neely Crenshaw doesn’t throw one pass. While he is on the sidelines, his throwing hand is in an ice bucket.
Crenshaw replaces his coach as the field general since the man is absent. He calls running play after running play.
With seconds left and his team behind by a touchdown, Crenshaw leads the Spartans down the field. On the final play of the drive, he falls into the end zone and wins the state championship for his team, sans coaches.
What doesn’t come out until later is that the team had played so hard because they were enraged at their coach, Eddie Rake. He had come in at half time and hit Neely Crenshaw so hard that he had broken his nose.
Crenshaw retaliated on the spot. He slugged Rake right in the face and knocked him cold in the locker room.
One of the defensive players, an extremely brutal player named Silo, mades the coaches leave. They show up in the vicinity of the field only as the game is coming to its conclusion.
The fictional state championship game of the Messina Spartans was similar to this week’s women’s World Cup in drama. The whole episode was one big “19th nervous breakdown”.
For 15 years Neely Crenshaw has harbored bitterness toward Eddie Rake. Even though Rake visited Crenshaw in his hospital room after a career-ending injury in college, and asked his forgiveness, Neely has refused to let what the players call an “altercation” go.
At Eddie Rake’s funeral, a message from the coac is read to the huge crowd. In it, he tells of two regrets.
One is the death of Scotty Reardon. He has already sought and been granted the forgiveness of the family, and has been buried next to the boy.
The second regret is his actions toward Neely Crenshaw during the state championship game. In the message he apologizes and asks for the team’s forgiveness.
Crenshaw is surprised that he is one of three former players to be asked to read a short eulogy. Struggling with his feelings toward Rake, he finally tells the crowd he has now forgiven the coach.
This is a watershed for Neely Crenshaw because he himself needs forgiveness, which he has found hard to come by. He is divorced and estranged from his ex-wife, whom he misses.
In addition, Crenshaw is kicking himself that he dropped the love of his life in high school for a promiscous fling with a loose girl. On the visit to Rakes’ funeral, he has sought forgiveness from the girl, Cameron, with only a small result.
Cameron was devastated for 10 years because of what Crenshaw did to her. However, she has moved on and is happily married and a mother.
Crenshaw, though, is full of regrets. He calculates the life expectancy of Cameron’s husband, and tells her that when he dies, to give him a call.
The Bible is full of such messy stories. One is that of Jepthah, a judge in Israel.
Jepthah’s origins are a little awkward. His father Gilead, the tribal sheikh, fathered him via a prostitute.
When Jepthah comes of age, his brothers, the sons of Jepthah’s wife, throw him out. Jepthah, the Bible says, begins to hang out with a group of scoundrels.
However, Jepthah may be a bastard, but he is quite a fighter. Thus, when Israel needs someone to take on their enemy the Ammonites, they call on Jepthah.
Jepthah responds as you might imagine. “Oh, before you had no use for me, but now you need my help when it’s convenient. Take a powder.”
The leaders of the Gilead clan finally convince him to take on the role of leader of his people. He does so, and gives the Ammonite king a history lesson.
The Ammonite king claims Israelite land, indicating that Israel took it from him. Jepthah reminds the Ammonite leader that Israel had been peaceful toward his people, but were provoked. In addition, he refreshes him in the fact that what took place occurred hundreds of years ago.
None of this matters to the king of the Ammonites. He ignores Jepthah.
Jepthah talks big, but he doesn’t seem to have much confidence. He is about to have his “19th nervous breakdown”.
Before taking on the Ammonites, Jepthah makes a rash vow to God. He tells the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering (Judges 11:30,31).”
After Jepthah defeats the Ammonites, who should greet him at his door but his flighty teenage daughter, dancing with a tambourine in her hand. She can be best described by the opening lyric to the Stones’ song “19th Nervous Breakdown”:
You’re the kind of person
You meet at certain dismal dull affairs.
Center of a crowd, talking much too loud
Running up and down the stairs.
Well, it seems to me that you have seen too much in too few years.
And though you’ve tried you just can’t hide
Your eyes are edged with tears.
You better stop
Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes
Here comes your nine-teenth nervous breakdown.”
Her father is distraught. Jepthah obviously loves his daughter, his only child, but tells her the bad news that she is to be a sacrifice.
Jepthah’s daughter consoles her father, but asks for two months leave to go off on a camping trip with her BFFs so she can reflect on her life. He grants her this request.
When she returns, Jepthah does the deed. In those days, the girls of Israel held a 4 day backpack trip each year to remember her.
Now, being a male and a father, I can imagine Jepthah playing the blame game over all of this. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote a lyric for him in “19th Nervous Breakdown”:
Oh, whose to blame, that girls just insane.
Well nothing I do don’t seem to work,
It only seems to make matters worse. oh please.
Au contraire, Mr. Jepthah Gilead. James Dobson notes the empty headedness of today’s girls in a recent letter to his constituents, and puts the blame where it belongs.
Introducing his thoughts about today’s girls, Dobson desribes how a Christian leader was invited to a high school football game after he retired, but snuck away at halftime. He was so “profoundly burdened” over the kids around him that he went home to pray for them.
We see evidence of this vacuity among the girls who contact us to seek advice. They are very different from those who wrote us twenty years ago. Teens used to inquire about the “right” thing to do, which usually reflected a Christian foundation of some variety. Even those who had no faith seemed to know that some things were simply wrong. That has changed dramatically. A significant number of the teens who ask for our counsel now are not interested in what is moral but rather how they should deal with the messes they are in and whether or not they should act on their impulses and desires. Not all adolescents think this way, of course, nor do the majority of them. But we are hearing from more and more youngsters who are greatly influenced by moral relativism. For them, absolute truth does not exist. There is no reliable standard of right and wrong because they acknowledge no God who can define it.
This is why so many young people today are pursuing alien theologies and pleasures, such as New Age nonsense, the “hookup culture,” substance abuse, and raw materialism. They are searching vainly for something that will satisfy their “soul hunger,” but they are unlikely to find it. Meaning in life comes only by answering the eternal questions that are addressed exclusively within the Christian faith. No other religion can tell us who we are, how we got here, and where we are going after death. And no other belief system teaches that we are known and loved individually by the God of the universe and by His only Son, Jesus Christ.
Moses instructed parents to talk about these spiritual truths continually at home. This is what he wrote to the Children of Israel more than 3,500 years ago.
Dobson goes on to offer several suggestions concerning what parents can do to introduce their children to Jesus Christ.
Life is messy and we humans are a mess. We are constantly having our “19th nervous breakdown”.
Too many of us parents are creating our own Eddie Rake and Jepthah stories. Too many of us are no better than Gilead or Neely Crenshaw.
Is it any wonder that among the last words of Jesus was the statement,”Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Dads, we’d better stop, and look around. It’s halftime boys.
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