Do we decide or does Somebody Else call the shots?
I find it very strange to hear profound statements of religious faith with respect to athletic contests. Even the most religious of us think in far more secular terms about everyday activities and amusements than our grandparents did.
A football game today is merely a football game. It is a test of speed, strength, strategy, throwing accuracy, coordination, and raw nerve, rather than a test of faith. It most certainly is not a religious ritual.
Countless decisions and actions by the coaches and players tumble forth in real time as the unpredictable nature of the game shreds well-laid plans. Should I run the screen or the reverse? Should I defend against the short pass or the long bomb? Should I run up the middle or try the end-around? Feeding into these decisions are the life histories of every player, coach, referee, even those of the fans and the beer man in the stands.
What would happen if all human actions were woven into life’s tapestry before the game started? Wouldn’t the deity in question actually be the one directing the flight of the ball, the sure hands of the rusher, the power of the tackler, the aim of the kicker, and the roar of the crowd? And wouldn’t we be horrified if we ever found out?
The power to direct the destiny of a very complex game–not to mention the history of a great nation or of an entire world–would in fact mean the power to overwhelm the intentions of us mere mortals. It would render meaningless any sense we have of free will and personal responsibility. Why bother trying one’s best or doing the right thing? The Word Hath Already Been Written.
Consider the alternative. We are truly free beings.
Quarterbacks call audibles when their opponents get set in an unexpected defensive formation. The audible tells the team to run a different play than the one planned in the huddle.
Audibles aren’t limited to football. We humans are very good at calling them in everyday life. The freeway is packed. We drive a different route home. Dinner isn’t started. We order out for pizza. A child is not learning in school. We search for one that will fit her needs better. We act as if we were free people because we are.
A lack of assurance of success doesn’t detract from this sense of freedom. In fact, it adds to it. We sense a lack of predestination. We watch as possibilities spread out before us.
I’ve come to realize that calling audibles is all we do. We await the delivery of no set plays from heaven. We merely stand out on the field of everyday life, ready to take the snap, set to hand off or throw to family, friends, and colleagues–calling audibles to each other, play after play, until the very end of the game.