I’m a Christian and I Didn’t Watch the Superbowl… But I Wish I Had Of

I woke up this morning to a slew of text messages from my boyfriend who was giving me a play-by-play of the Seattle-New England football game. I read all of his excited messages as the Patriots intercepted the ball in the last moments of the game and took the victory away from the Seahawks. Even in my sleepy state, I was really excited too. Mostly because I knew my older sister would be ecstatic that her favourite team won the game.

I also woke up and did what I think we all do most mornings (even though we hate to admit it): I scrolled through Facebook. And I knew I’d see some of my friends lamenting over the loss of the Seahawks, and even posting a few undesirable comments about Tom Brady, but also some who were happy about the game. Though I love football, I wasn’t overly invested in last nights game because my favourite team is Greenbay, and they weren’t playing. So you see, I was okay with going to sleep as opposed to staying up until 3 in the morning in my timezone to watch the game. But I still love football, and you can bet that if Greenbay was playing, I would have been up all night.

As I continued to scroll through Facebook I saw a post that I dreaded–one that I knew I could possibly come across the morning after the Superbowl, but the one I hoped I wouldn’t see. It was along the lines of this:

“Christians who watch the Superbowl are partaking in worldliness and I can’t believe they don’t have their priorities straight when there are other Christians in the world who are willing to go to great lengths for their faith, and I think that people who enjoy this sort of thing are just not holy enough.”

Or something like that. It wasn’t likely worded that way, but it was just as harsh. And it wasn’t the only one. A couple of my other contacts on Facebook posted similar things, leaving the rest of us who think of themselves as pretty devoted Christians feeling like dirt; shamed by one single Facebook post.

And I fought very hard against myself not to comment. Not to start an argument. Because this sort of thing really bothers me, and I was tired, and I wanted to set the record straight for the rest of us football-loving-Superbowl-watching Christians. So I decided to say it here, because maybe one little comment just isn’t enough. Maybe this needs to be an open discussion on more than just football and being “of the world”. It’s a conversation about love. And how Christians suck at being loving, which is a much bigger problem then whether or not people watch football.

I’m currently living in a country as a missionary where American football is not a big deal. Superbowl parties aren’t all that common here in Ireland, and you certainly don’t see guys watching games during the week. They might know some of the teams, but that’s about as far as it goes. That doesn’t mean they don’t have their own fair share of fanaticism when it comes to sports. Talk about Gaelic football, rugby, or hurling and you’ve got a pretty heated conversation. Go over the other side of the water and talk to the Brits about Manchester United vs. Chelsea and you’ve got another debate. So many countries South of the equator are bigger into soccer and baseball than we are with our football and hockey. The point is, watching sports and liking a game isn’t inherently evil. To the exclusion of God, sure. Over and above your love for Jesus, sure. But in and of itself–not even close.

In fact, I’m quickly learning that in order to be an affective missionary in my current context, I’m going to have to go where the people are. And where are they often times? The football pitch or at a rugby match. I don’t even know all the rules of rugby or hurling or Gaelic football, but these things are really important to the community I live in. I will never be an effective missionary or Christian in this world if I stand on the sidelines preaching while everyone walks on by. Shouting sanctimonious rants about worldliness is not going to get people to warm to the Christian faith. It’s not even how Jesus would have done things. So maybe I have to get on the rugby bandwagon and rub shoulders with people that I would otherwise have zero chance in reaching. And by the way, being a football fan does not make me any less of a Christian or any less willing to live to the end of myself for the sake of the Kingdom. Not even a little. And you know what else? I bet many of those football players will be counted among the saints as well, so what about that?

So instead of condemning those who are in our faith already for enjoying fellowship together over a football game, get into the community you live in and love on people who don’t know Jesus. Don’t judge them for their likes and dislikes, just love them. Because you might find, like I’ve found, that you actually need to become a fan of some of these sports in order to be where the people are. Because that’s what Jesus was about–going where the people were, even the lowest of the low, and loving them. Christians judge. Jesus didn’t. But he certainly will when the time is right. And as Francis Chan once said, “In the twilight of life, we will be judged on love alone.”

So there. I didn’t watch the Superbowl, but I sure wish I had of. And it wouldn’t have made me any less of a Christian.

Long Distance Love

Before I go any further, let me just get this out: living 3300 miles away from the person you love isn’t ideal. This is my current plight. In all honesty, it sucks. Any length of distance is hard to navigate when you’re in a committed relationship. And another thing, I am definitely not an expert on relationships. I’ve only been in this club of long-distance-daters for 6 months. But after surfing the web looking for advice and tips on dating long distance and finding really lame stuff, I figured I’d throw my two-cents into the ring. It couldn’t be any worse than anything else you’d find. There’s my disclaimer, in case you were looking for one.

So here we go.

IT’S ALL ABOUT COMMITMENT

If you go into a long distance relationship without any real hope of a future with that person, just stop. Even a relationship in which two people are living in close proximity is doomed to fail if you really don’t see it going anywhere. So it’s all the more likely that there’s not enough there to sustain a relationship that has you separated most of the time. It works with relationships in general: if you really don’t see it amounting to anything, just bow out. It’s not worth hurting someone for a little bit of flirtatious fun. But say you’re both super committed and life is grand: it’s still going to be hard. It’s easier to grow as a couple in some ways when you’re given the opportunity to spend time together. And for some people, they feel the most loved when they’re spending quality time with people. I know that’s true of Caleb and I. Commitment is what pushes you to stick it out when it’s not easy, or fun, or exciting. In a lot of ways, being in a long-distance relationship is hard going from the very start, and if you’re both not committed to making it work, then it won’t work. You have to overcome being apart, time-zones, missing milestones, actually going on dates, awful Skype connections–oh the list goes on.

But here’s the cool part– being in a committed long-distance relationship has taught me the importance of communication like I’ve never known before. Spending 2-3 hours with Caleb on Skype is not abnormal, and often we text throughout the day as well. We’ve had to talk about really important things early on because we didn’t have the privilege of just hanging out and going on cute dates. I know more about him in 6 months of distance than I might have if we still both lived in Toronto. And another thing, as Christians, we’ve been more encouraged in being apart in the early stages of our relationship than I think we would have if we were together. Let’s be honest, when you start dating someone it’s so tempting to speed through to the physical elements of your relationship. And before you know it, lines get crossed either in actual life or in your thought-life. When you live apart, you don’t have that same temptation, for obvious reasons. In so many ways, this is to be counted as a great blessing. You have no idea how many relationships have been ruined because things just got too heated too fast–I’ve been there myself. Caleb and I get to talk about our faith, read Scripture together, and even pray together. It’s important to us. We can build something so much stronger because distance has actually forced us to get our priorities straight.

…AND EFFORT…

I don’t know how many times I’ve surfed through Google searches looking for new and innovative date ideas for long-distance relationships. Most articles say things like “watch a movie at the same time” or “eat dinner together”. Like, yeah, OBVIOUSLY. Also, dinner and a movie isn’t even the greatest date idea in general. When two people are in person they can go skating, or visit an art gallery or have a picnic. How can I do this over Skype or FaceTime? We’ve already decided that long distance relationships are hard, but is there really no way for them to work? Are we doomed to have awkward Skype calls about the weather? (This would be a dull conversation from my end, because it’s usually always raining here in Ireland).

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say that long-distance relationships never work. Even the media gives that message. But that’s really not true. All it really takes is effort. You have to want it enough to make it work and you have to be a little creative. Apart from eating meals and synchronizing your movie-watching, there are lots of other things long-distance-daters can do. Caleb and I read books over Skype (we just finished The Hobbit), we play 20 questions, Pictionary, plan hypothetical trips, and we just hang out like we would as if we were together. It feels normal. Long-distance dating takes a lot more effort, but it does get easier. Maybe you’re both musical. Play together over Skype. Maybe you’re both really good at texting. Text during the day. Maybe you know the other person likes getting letters–write letters. Order flowers. Send care packages. You can even order cookies online–I did this once and it went over really well.

TREASURE TIME TOGETHER

Finally, when you are together, treasure it. See it as the gift that it is, and don’t take advantage of it. I think dating long distance can give people a greater appreciation for the time they do get together. Even when you’re apart and on Skype, be all there. Don’t let yourself get distracted by Facebook or 9Gag. Focus and pay attention, and value the time you can spend together. Find a place with good lighting and good internet connection, make some tea, and just hang out. Don’t let the distance pull you farther apart from each other than you already are–use it to your advantage in every way possible.

I’ve found that being apart and valuing our time together has helped Caleb and I to avoid a lot of fighting. We’ve actually never had an actual fight or major disagreement thus far. And part of that is our personalities, but it’s also because we know we don’t get the same privileges of couples that see each other all the time. Am I really going to start an argument about something that’s probably really stupid when I know I only get these few hours with this person I love? No. Nothing is really worth spoiling that time. Your significant other is likely also your best friend, so let that govern how you spend your time as well.

I doesn’t have to be impossible, people. You just have to want it enough, and follow through. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. Take it from someone who’s starring down the barrel of another 5 months of distance–it can be done, and it can be awesome. I don’t know everything and no relationship is perfect, but it can be good.

Now I’m off to drink tea and read Narnia with my favourite Torontonian.