If you’ve been around me any length of time, you know I have a relatively good sense of humor, but I can pretty quickly slip into my default mode of serious reflection, at least I think so after I reflect on my personality . . . seriously.
So, keep that in mind as I share what happened in a small airport in Temuco, Chile.
Laura and I spent time visiting churches and pastors in the southern part of Chile with our missionary host, and now good friend, Doug Kallestad. We were back at the airport waiting for our flight to Santiago, and it happened to be during the game of Chile vs. Colombia in the Copa America.
If like me, you’re not a big “football” (non-American style) fan, you may not have even heard of the Copa America. But it’s a really big deal. At least in South America.
For those of you who have a few frequent flyer miles, you’ll know that when you walk down the concourses of any major (or minor) airport, if a “big game” is televised (like the recent NBA Finals), there will be a handful of people watching and cheering for their favorite team. But that’s pretty much it.
Laura, Doug (the missionary), and I arrived in the Temuco airport café a little early, and we watched as the Chile/Colombian game started. But within minutes, our table of three grew to tables of three, and then four, eight, and twelve. As people arrived to catch their flight, they immediately moved toward the sound of the game, and our little café was overflowing with Chileans watching their national team compete against the highly-favored Colombians.
Every time the Chilean team got close to scoring, everyone around us began to chant, “Chi, Chi, Chi, le, le, le, viva Chile!!” And that’s when it happened. I got emotional. I was so moved by the unity, comradery, and excitement, that I actually had a few tears form in my eyes. One or two even slipped out down my cheek.
We boarded the plane while the game continued, and when we landed in Santiago, the pilot did his usual, “Welcome to Santiago where the local time is . . . “ and then he said, “And Chile WON!” The whole plane erupted with cheers, laughter, and celebration. I felt like the pilot announced the victory of the Allied forces in W.W. II.
As I sat on the plane and reflected . . . seriously . . . I thought how beautiful it is when people unite around a common cause and express their enthusiasm and joy when victory comes. As Christians, we have the greatest, most significant, victory of all—“Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). But do we shout with joy, shed tears of happiness, and celebrate with enthusiasm (en—theos: in God)?
I never realized I could learn such a valuable life lesson from a game of soccer. Seriously.
Let’s heed the words of the 19thcentury preacher, Charles Spurgeon:
It is a mark of Christ’s presence when the church becomes enthusiastic. We sometimes hear complaints about revivals being too exciting. Perhaps the censure is deserved, but I would like to see a little of the fault. This age does not generally sin in the direction of being too excited concerning divine things. We have erred so long on the other side that, perhaps, a little excess in the direction of fervor might not be the worst of all calamities; at any rate, I would not fear to try it.
And speaking of great celebrations. I pray all of you enjoy a special day in American history this week. Happy Fourth of July! It’s great to be home a few days to share this holiday with family and friends.