Hope you’ve had a great week. Last Saturday Dub had two basketball games on Signal Mountain (the mountain across town from us), Nate had two basketball games in Knoxville, and Sam had his parents v. players end-of-season game for flag football. Since Will, Sam and I went to Dub’s first game (his debut for high school), we missed the first half of the the flag football game. But Will always brings his “A” game for such outings and there was still plenty of time for him to provide me with many good sideline laughs. First of all, I need to paint you a mental picture. Most days my handsome man leaves the house in a suit and tie — neatly groomed and the epitome of professionalism. But weekends are different. For the game he donned his Terrell Owens Eagles jersey that we got off the clearance rack a decade ago, a white bandana tied in do-rag fashion (you cannot fathom how much Dub despises this look on his dad), athletic shorts and soccer cleats from college! Watching Will play sports has been a highlight of my life for a quarter century, literally, and he did not disappoint. He simultaneously caught a pass in the end zone with another dad, made some crucial tackles and talked a lot of smack. Predictably, in the end, the kids won the game by one point. But in my humble and unbiased opinion Will added a great deal of levity and excitement to the loss.
But one laugh I didn’t learn about till later that night. To fully appreciate the story, you’ll need some background.
One thing you’ll need to keep in mind is that we all exhibit some questionable parenting now and then. There is no judgment from me. Here is Will applauding barely four-year-old Nate for “stomping” his opponent in flag.
There’s backstory to that too, but I’ll save that for another time.
Anyway there is a mom I know and love who once gave an interesting piece of advice to her tween-age daughter. When the daughter once used the term “sucks,” as in “this sucks,” the mother gently tried to redirect her.
“You know, Honey,” she began, “Don’t say ‘sucks,’ say ‘blows.'”
This has become part of our lexicon. For years when Will and I hear someone say that something sucks, we look at each other and smile over this timeless piece of hilarious advice: “Don’t say sucks, say blows!”
Another tidbit that you need to know is that at the Nashville Predators hockey games, they have an odd chant. I found it a little off-putting the first time I heard it. When the Preds score, the crowd all yells at the opposing team, or maybe it’s directed to the goalie, I’m not sure. But the level of compliance from the crowd is startling — they chant, over and over again, “HEY…YOU SUCK!” It seems it’s actually a long standing tradition with the Preds because here is video of it posted in 2007.
Thankfully Sam never repeated this charming little refrain, well not until Saturday when he decided to implement it against the dedicated parents who were using this frigid but otherwise free morning to play football with their kids. And of course I was sipping hot chocolate with some sweet moms on the sideline when Sam decided it was the right time to yell at the parents, “Hey!…You suck!”
Yes, it was rather mortifying. If my face wasn’t already red from the cold, it turned a rapid pink then. I couldn’t explain the reference fast enough. Sadly these moms had never been to a Preds game and didn’t know what I was talking about. I’m hoping they don’t think we just yell at each other at home, in a sing-songy way “Hey…You suck!”
I didn’t think Will was in earshot of this proud moment and I didn’t remember to tell him about it until later that night when just the two of us were out.
“Oh my gosh,” I said, the embarrassment flooding back to me. “Did you hear Sam today at the game? He did that Predators chant thing to the parents? Hey…You suck!”
“Yeah,” I heard him, he said. “I told him: Don’t say sucks, say blows!”
I laughed, horrified. “You did NOT!”
“Yes, I did,” he said.
What a gift it is that God has given me people that crack me up! But on a more serious note, we really do need to be careful to not adopt the ways of the crowd. We are called to be set apart, but we clearly trend in the direction of the crowd. Since my life (and yours too if you have eyes to see) is highly orchestrated, I read the following passage just days after this embarrassing episode.
Since we all have everyday experience of the unreliability of crowds to discern and reflect the truth, it is puzzling that the appeal to numbers continues to carry so much weight with us…a rudimentary knowledge of history corroborated by a few moments of personal reflection will convince us that the truth is not statistical and that crowds are more foolish than wise…The crowd makes spectators of us, passive in the presence of excellence or beauty. The crowd makes consumers of us, inertly taking in whatever is pushed at us. As spectators and consumers the central foundational elements of our being human — our ability to create, our drive to excel, our capacity to commune with God — atrophy.
There is nothing wrong, of course, in being in a crowd, and often is unavoidable. If I want to watch some highly skilled athletes play a game and 50,000 other people also want to watch, I can hardly avoid being in a crowd, nor does it damage my life. But if in addition to watching the game I parrot the profanity of the crowd and imitate the behavior of the crowd (because 50,000 people must be right), then my life is falsified.
We cannot avoid being in crowds. Can we keep from being crowd-conditioned? Can we keep from trading our name in for a number, letting the crowd reduce us to mindless passivity?
Eugene Peterson, Run with the Horses, p.132-133.
I mean how crazy is that? That after my son parrots the profanity of the crowd, I read about that exact scenario days later. Crazy? Or Divine. Since this type of happenstance happens to me all the time, I know it’s Divine.
But regardless, the truth of this passage is hard-hitting. More than in 1983, when this book was written, the masses of 2016 are convinced that the masses know best. Only a moment’s reflection confirms, as Peterson writes, the absurdity of this. Yet groupthink prevails, and unless we are intentional in resisting, our natural inclination is to fall in line. As a mother, this scares me. Sam may be picking a most inopportune time to yell out, “Hey…You suck!” but worse is the idea that the passivity of being crowd-conditioned means diminishing ability to create, to excel, to commune with God.
We can resist the rudderless forces of culture by living in biblical community, by praying, by serving in Christ-honoring ministries. We can daily put on the full armor of God from Ephesians 6 (belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, gospel-of-peace shoes, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God), but I believe the most important thing we can do is to live submitted to Scripture. Crowds can scream and yell, the masses can live trying to please the world, but I want to live my life anchored to the Word of God. I don’t need a poll to know how to think about something, read what “experts” say, or look deep in my own heart. I need to crack open the Word of God and live by it. Just as Amy Grant sang back in the 80’s, and David wrote thousands of years ago, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105). Every. Single. Day.
I hope you too seek this Lamp for your feet and Light for your path.