Approximately 31 million people tuned in to watch the final of the Euros. I sipped my glass of white Italian wine while sitting on the edge of my seat watching the players finishing the game with penalties.
I’m not an everyday football fan but I do love major tournaments. Many of us were relieved to see Italy win. Many of us were disappointed to see England lose. But let’s not forget the brilliance of the young English players and the leadership of Gareth Southgate throughout the tournament.
Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all received racist abuse on social media after #ENG's #EURO2020 final defeat to #ITA.— Goal (@goal) July 12, 2021
Wrong. Disgusting. Unacceptable.
This HAS TO STOP. pic.twitter.com/iZfgbxl5dT
After the final whistle was blown there was one picture that hit our social media waves that captured my heart - it was the picture of Gareth Southgate hugging Saka to comfort and reassure him after he missed the penalty.
Of course for those of us who are old enough to remember, we are aware that Southgate knows a thing or two about missing penalties. This is his story too.
POWER OF THE EMBRACE
There is something about that their embrace that said everything that needed to be said. Most of us will never be under the immense pressure those young guys faced that evening, but we all know what it is to fail, get things wrong, not perform to the best of our abilities, and to feel the chill of disappointment.
There is nothing more powerful than when those who train you, mentor you, walk life with you, provide opportunities, and encourage you, hold you close when things don’t go your way.
Give your head a wobble if you're criticising Bukayo Saka at all.— SPORTbible (@sportbible) July 11, 2021
19-years-old and he had the balls to take the decisive penalty in probably the biggest game of his career. pic.twitter.com/qQQNEcgNVc
We all need such people. We all need to be such people.
We all need, "I got you, no matter what" people in our lives.
The reality is that life isn’t always going to go to plan. But we need each other. We all need people who have our backs, who hold us, pick us up, help us dust ourselves down and who say:"I’m here."
Who are your people? Never underestimate the power of embrace.
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up." (1 Thess 5:11)
HERE COMES THE SUMMER
Most clergy tend to look forward to the summer months as it gives us an opportunity to slow down.
Since stepping into ministry life (almost 20 years ago), I have always taken this month to withdraw a little: withdraw from work, meetings, deadlines, social media, and even people.
Why? Because it is always important to take time out to withdraw. In other words, it’s okay to give ourselves permission to remove ourselves.
In fact, as we read through the gospels we read of Jesus’ busy ministry life, yet we are told that He often took time to step away from people and withdraw (Luke 5:16).
I love using the summer months to read without any agenda; whether it be a magazine, newspaper, book, or to even crack open a book in the Bible to simply read and rest in the text, knowing that I don’t need to prepare a talk or a theological thought.
Over this past week I have I have been reading some of John O’Donohue’s writings. He was an Irish speaker, born in Clare, a poet, philosopher, and a priest who wrote extensively about Celtic Spirituality. Take time and reflect on his magnificent challenge to be slow:
This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The Wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.
I wonder is this the time for you to be slow? I never hide the fact that I struggle to master the whole life and work balance, but I am slowly learning that:
In order to better engage, we need to embrace the opportunities to disengage
In order to be fully present, we need to embrace the opportunities to be absent
In order to keep going at a steady pace, we need to embrace opportunities to withdraw.
Friends, give yourself permission to take the time to be slow!