'Finishing the play' - June 2010
If any of you followed the USA team in the World Cup, you were treated (or tortured, depending on whether your glass is half empty or half full) to a scintillating run to win their group and advance to the round of 16. (For those of you who are in the 5% of the world’s population that doesn’t follow the World Cup – most of which reside in the US! – the World Cup Final includes 32 teams who have played in a two-year long qualifying tournament to advance to the final round, which this year was held in South Africa. The 32 teams are divided into 8 groups of 4 teams, who play a round robin called the ‘Group Stage’ with the top two teams advancing out of the group.)
So back to the US team, in the third and decisive match, considering the results of the other games in their group the US needed to win against a much lower regarded Algerian team. Though they dominated play and had several chances to score, including one goal that was wrongly waived off by the referee due to an incorrect offsides call, the US finished the regulation 90-minutes tied 0-0, facing elimination from the tournament with only 4 minutes of stoppage time added on by the referee (since the clock runs without stopping except for halftime, the referee adds on time at the end for stoppages in play such as injuries, substitutions and goals).
But, in the second minute of stoppage time, the US had a counterattack that produced the best chance of the game. Their best player, Landon Donovan, received a quick outlet from the keeper and took it the length of the field, dishing off to a winger out on the right as he approached the box. The winger then crossed to a streaking Clint Dempsey (the US’s best scoring forward) who tapped it towards the goal – only to be denied by the diving Algerian keeper who blocked the ball straight out from the goal. Fortunately for the US, Donovan had continued his run all the way through the play, and when the Algerian keeper sent the ball rolling towards the top of the box, Donovan pounced on it and sent it into the far corner of the goal, setting off a wild celebration amongst US fans all over the world. With just a minute and a half to play, the US had gone from elimination to winning their group in dramatic fashion. It was one of the greatest moments in US soccer history to date (I'm certain it will be outdone by the US team four years from now when they win hoist the World Cup trophy, but for now it’s one of the great moments! :) )
The result: we have been treated (or tortured! :) ) to a scintillating ride through this whole transition phase. Some examples?
For months, Alisha had applied online for teaching jobs in a district that had numerous openings. Hoping to secure a job before we returned to the US since most jobs are taken before June, we were dumbfounded why she had yet to hear anything from any school in the district. But in the 11th hour, she received an interview invitation from her top choice of schools and was offered a job in the final days of our time in Uganda.
Other examples of God working things out in the 11th hour for us include: our plane flight back to the US, which was cancelled 6 days before we were set to fly but we were able to get out on a flight the day before, getting the moving company to show up to pick up our stuff in time for our move to COS - the stuff will arrive on the very day we're expecting to move in, finding new tenants to rent our house in Medford the day after the old tenants moved out, and finding a house to rent in Colorado Springs – it looks like we will get the only house available in our price range that would allow us to move in next week.
In the end, seeing God work in this 'last-minute' manner has changed our perspective on how God works in our lives. What we often see as the last minute, God see’s as the perfect timing. I’m learning that it’s a human concept to want things to be set in place well in advance so we don’t have to worry about it. Why would God want to operate that way? Where does He fit into that equation? Would we really be disciplined enough to involve God in the process if everything was set in stone far ahead of time? Maybe you would, but I know that I would very likely not.
This isn’t to say that we don’t need to do our part. Look at the USA’s last minute goal. What looked like a sure thing – the winger passing to our best scorer right in front of the goal – ended up being a dead end. But because Landon Donovan finished the play and kept running towards the goal, he was in the right position to pounce on the scoring opportunity and win the game. If we do the same – continue to plug away at what’s in front of us and ‘finish the play’ – when God decides to act at just the right moment, we will be in the position to put the ball in the far corner of the net (yes, a cheesy illustration but still a good point to think on).
I have no idea what ‘finishing the play’ means in your life, but for us it’s been a good reminder to continue to pray and act as if God IS going to act in a situation – not blind faith, but confident faith in what we feel God has called us to do. That means we have to be patient for God to act, but wait confidently – even to the point of making plans based on what we think God’s doing. For planners like us it’s very uneasy ground to step out without seeing the end of the trail, sometimes without even seeing the next step! But when we’re at the point where we can’t do something without God acting and then God acts, it produces in us a thankfulness to God that we would never know otherwise, and strengthens our faith and confidence in Him that He can and will follow through when He leads us to step out in faith.
Moving update: We plan to arrive in Colorado Springs on July 14th and move into the house we’re hoping to rent the next day (we'll be on the road when we hopefully find out if we get the house!). Alisha starts attending a class she has to take for work on July 26th, so we should have just enough time to get moved in and settled. We’re looking forward to getting back to a normal routine of life, even though the 'normal' routine will be all new!