I remember one particularly spectacular victory when our female fans came pouring exultantly onto the field as soon as the gun sounded. Of course, quarterbacks always think ahead, and I quickly whipped off my helmet so as to be able to participate more spontaneously in any display of gratitude that came my way.
To my dismay, I was kissed not by one of our rosy-cheeked, sparkling-eyed cheerleaders, as I had rather hoped, but by the coach’s wife. This was an accurate tribute to my role in her husband’s happy evening but it did absolutely nothing for my 17-year-old heart. To compound my disappointment, I was carried off the field on the shoulders of a couple of ugly, sweaty linemen, which is a much overrated thrill.
However, the point I want to make concerns our fullback, who was very strong but — to put the matter as delicately as possible — he was not much of a scholar. He could never seem to learn that plays ending in even numbers went to the right and plays ending in odd numbers ran to the left. Billy ran wherever he thought that he saw an opening. Thus on fullback calls, the only safe way to block an opponent was straight up in the air.
Billy was a big, tough kid, and the only time he was every really stopped was the night he swallowed his entire plug of chewing tobacco. That is not strictly true because one night some of the stadium lights burned out and we could not see well enough to play any more. Because of the light that shines in the darkness (John 1:5), Christians should always be able to keep their heads in the game.
Over the years I have lost touch with Billy. I imagine he is still driving a tractor backwards around his cotton field and making big gains. And I am not putting him down! He was a great guy, and I would rather have him by my side on a trek across Africa or in a street fight than any number of world-famous but desiccated scholars I could name.
Like football players, ministers come in many shapes and sizes, bringing many different skills to help the team. The game and its rules are described in the Bible. The Presbyterian playbook is called the Book of Confessions. However, on the field, some ministers, like my friend Billy the fullback, will inevitably run their own way no matter what play is called. Once in a while that’s O.K., because in ministry the one who is carrying the ball is often running alone in a broken field with teammates who cannot get into position to throw a block, and against opponents who will knock your head off if they can.
Unfortunately, right now the Presbyterian team seems to be huddled on the field arguing not only over who gets to call the plays but what the game is. The play clock is rapidly running down on the Saints. We must hope that the owner of the franchise does not get disgusted with us and turn off all the lights in PC(USA) stadium. It will be difficult to find our way home alone and in the dark.