Cynthia Weems: Disappointment in March Madness and church
As we move into March Madness I am reminded of the burden I place on my sports heroes. They are supposed to do their jobs all the time, every time, in the best way possible and ultimately bring me home a victory. Is that too much to ask?
But our players, coaches, and teams often disappoint us. We buy tickets and T-shirts, change our schedules, and even pray for the preacher to be brief on those Sundays when our team plays at 1:00. We do our part, so why can’t those highly paid athletes actually win? I often think to myself, “Your only job is to catch that ball. So catch that ball!”
This is all part of being human. We will always disappoint and be disappointed. In fact, at this very moment, you may be thinking of someone who has disappointed you, and you find it hard to get over. Even harder than seeing your team lose a big game.
The hard truth is that we will continue to be let down. And, of course, we will do our share of letting others down, intentionally or not. As a pastor, I will disappoint my congregation, my family and many others at some point in time (by dropping the ball!). Our congregations will sorely disappoint their members and the larger community in one way or another. Yet, the God we worship is a God who not only knows what to do with our disappointing behavior but also knows how to help us to handle the times when others disappoint us. In both instances, grace and forgiveness abound. The One who remains solid, even when are unsteady, will guide us through our mutual disappointments.
At the beginning of this year, I asked my congregation to offer written, anonymous “new year” petitions as they gathered at the altar rail for Holy Communion. I prayed over those petitions in the weeks that followed. The vast majority of them spoke of ways that the person had been disappointed or had disappointed another. All sought forgiveness and understanding.
What is one feeling that is overwhelmingly present in scripture? Disappointment. God’s disappointment in a faithless people. Jesus’ disappointment in disciples who often didn’t “get it.” Paul’s disappointment in the wavering young Christians he sought to equip. It is present over and over again. Today is no different. Maybe we get so disgusted with our sports heroes because they are uncomfortably like us -- unable to live up to expectations.
As a leader, what are you doing to address the disappointment you feel in yourself when you are unable to fulfill expectations? Have you recently seen God renew the good gift of grace in your life? How do you help your organization’s members address the disappointments that hit them on a regular basis? Is there time in worship, staff meetings, or leadership retreats given to lifting up these disappointments? Are there opportunities to offer and receive grace and forgiveness for dropped balls and bad coaching decisions? Could we allow worship and communal time to be the places where we receive the tools to forgive ourselves and forgive others in this disappointing world we call home?
As much as I like sports, I am glad God does not work like the playoff brackets. God does work within each of us and seeks to be our champion even when others let us down.
Cynthia Weems is senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Miami, Florida.