I was running the left wing. I moved the ball to my right sensing my defender was worried and that that worry would cause him to commit too fast. My sense proved true as he rushed his left leg to block my run and in that moment I brought the ball back to the left and slid it past him with his balance off centre. Every muscle in my body tensed then. My legs sprung to bring a burst of acceleration as I ran around my defender. As I crouched my torso low to dig my toes into the ground and race away from my opponent I took control of the ball on the other side of him. Sensing that he’d given up the chase I raised my body tall and took short springing steps to keep the ball close to my control as I ran toward the goal.

My team mates gathered in the centre waiting for a cross. Their defenders jostled nervously. As I ran my eyes scanned for the best option. And then at the final second something deep in my subconscious saw the goalie move. It was only a soccer game at a church camp in a park and the goal was tiny but I perceived the smallest of gaps behind the goalie and as if controlled by some outside force my body responded and shot the ball, striking it with the ball of bone on the inside of my right foot.

The ball passed behind the goalie’s knee, cannoned into the far post and bounced in. There was a gasp of surprise and a cheer. But I didn’t hear it. I stood still then as I often did after I scored a goal. I was listening to something different. I was feeling the whole scene replay through my body and feeling deep joy in my inner most being. It felt as if heaven was singing over me. I was born to play this sport. That’s how God made me and when I do what God made me to do He feels joy and I feel His joy.

Eric Liddle was an Olympic sprinter from Scotland who was favoured to win the 100 metres at the 1924 Olympic games. He was a Christian too (who later served and died as a missionary to China). When the final of the 100 metres was scheduled for a Sunday at that Olympic games, Eric refused to run because of his faith. Instead he ran the 400 metre final which was scheduled for a week day. He won that race, though he had not trained for it, and set a new world record. As Eric ran he would run with his head laid back as if gazing into heaven. Of running Eric said, “God made me for a purpose but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

God made you for a purpose but He also gifted you with skills and abilities and talents and enjoyments. He made everything about you. Encountering God doesn’t only happen in a church service or at a prayer meeting. In the midst of doing those things in which God has given us the gift of enjoyment, we can encounter Him deeply and profoundly. How? In the midst of them we thank Him and invite Him in. “God, thank you that you made me to play soccer. Come and let me feel your joy as I play.” When we feel His joy over us by the Holy Spirit then our hearts will respond with love and delight in return. Our beautiful God is not only the God of church meetings. He longs to be involved in every part of our lives.

Joel Ratcliffe

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