While in Italy in June I was asked to do two things I had never done before. The first was to try Horse Tartare. It wasn’t as bad as you might imagine. The second was to be the ceremonial kick-off kicker in an American football game for the Parma Panthers. It was worse than you might imagine.
The Panthers became famous on account of John Grisham’s book Playing for Pizza. In 2008 Karen and I went to Parma because we had read the book and I wanted to see one of the games in the Italian Football League. We missed the game but got to meet the owner and his wife: Ivano and Bea Tira.
We’ve forged a friendship over the years and this summer we finally made it to a game. The Panthers were in the first round of the playoffs. In the days leading up to the game Ivano looked at me with a wicked smile on his face and said, “Rick, I want you to kick-off for us at the game.”
I thought he was kidding. I figured we’d get to the game and he’d have me conduct the coin toss. That didn’t happen. We were standing on the sideline and suddenly Ivano said, “You ready?” I said, “Sure.” He said, “OK. So we’ll go out on the field now and you will kick. You sure that’s OK?” I laughed and said, “Well, it won’t be pretty because I don’t kick footballs. But I’ll do it for you.”
I assured the real kicker he would not lose his job. Ivano said, “Now it’s time.” I turned around and saw the other team lined up. There was no turning back. It quickly dawned on me I had not planned out what I would do if he really was serious about the kick. I had no idea what I was doing so I stutter-stepped my way to the ball and kicked it straight on. (If you want a good laugh you can see it here)
My nephew Ryan—who played soccer and was his high school football team’s kicker—was watching from the sideline. He later said, “That was as wrong of a kick as possible.” The announcer called my 15-yard low spinning kick a Squib-Kick. It was ugly.
Sometimes our lives are like Squib-Kicks. Instead of hitting the sweet spot and sending the ball soaring we stutter-step our way through and end up with something ugly. And the reason is the same: we lack a plan for our lives.
Jesus didn’t. He knew exactly what he was to accomplish. You and I don’t have more to do than Jesus. He was here to save the world. And yet in three years he was able to tell the Father, “I have brought you glory by finishing the work you gave me to do.” In football terms he kicked it high, straight, and with distance.
Jesus had a plan and he gave us a plan: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” That’s the plan: make disciples. We learn from Jesus how to do what he would do if he were in our shoes.
And what would he do? He kept that simple too. “Love God. Love your neighbor.”
Instead of my terribly unplanned kick, our lives should be in sync with the plan God has given us to fulfill. But how do we do that when we are juggling multiple relational circles? A mentor of mine used to answer that question by saying: “Be a disciple. If you are learning to follow Jesus, you’ll learn from him how to make disciples. It will be natural.”
Jesus had many relational circles too: crowds, the 72, the 12, the 3 (Peter, James, John) and even the 1 (John). Jesus did not spend the same amount of time with everyone. But he did spend his time with everyone the same way…with purpose.
And so will we. What if you looked at your relational circles again with a plan? You won’t spend the same amount of time with everyone. But you will spend time with everyone the same way: with purpose.
It takes a plan. No Squib-Kicking allowed.
Question: How can you avoid a “Squib-Kick Life” starting today?