I played high school soccer. Made varsity sophomore year. My coach wasn’t a religious man, but he taught us a few things. One was: use profanity out on the field, and you and the whole team will be punished for it.
One time I cussed aloud after something bad happened. The whole team had to stop what they were doing and start running laps…for the rest of practice. I didn’t do it again.
We weren’t the fastest team, or the most talented, or the deepest in terms of lots of skilled players. But he taught us another lesson: if someone takes the ball from you, fakes you out, nutmegs you, whatever: you give chase and do whatever you can to win the ball back.
Nothing made him angrier than when one of us gave up after getting beaten by an opponent. That player would be pulled from the game and would run laps. As a result, I learned, as did my teammates, that when you were beaten you hustled, scrapped, dug in, to win the ball back. Even if the opponent was an All-American (which happened multiple times to me), was faster than you, was better.
And about a third of the time you could win the ball back or disrupt the play. Hustling immediately made our team that much better than we otherwise would have been. This was a life lesson for me: run, hustle, get up when you get knocked down. I was an atheist during those years, but it was lesson in human virtue that transferred into my spiritual life when I became Christian.
In Christian parlance we would call it perseverance I suppose. When you get spiritually knocked down, you get up again. When the cross weighs heavily, and crushes us down to the ground, we rise once more to stagger along. Only, instead of doing so on a purely natural level with our own steam, we do it with the help of God’s actual grace.
So it is with great gratitude that I think about my old soccer coach and this lesson in virtue that he gave me. God took those raw materials like so much clay and shaped, fashioned, and hardened it into something valuable unto eternal life.
Have you learned any lessons from unexpected places or persons that have helped you in your life of faith?