It was the summer before my son’s freshman year in high school, and he had one request of me: “Mom, can I join the football team?”
With my whole heart I wanted to abruptly say, “NO!”. I didn’t want to deal with injuries, particularly head trauma. I didn’t want to deal with the secular influence that would envelope my son. And I really didn’t want to open up my homeschool life to the scrutiny of the public school system. I had reasons…all of them legitimate. Everything within me wanted to simply lay down the law and say “no”. I wanted so badly to play the mom card. I was armed and ready to use authority and exclaim: “No, because I said so.” However, the Holy Spirit led me in a far different direction. I calmly looked at my son and instead asked him to give me a little time to think about it.
I remember that day well. I spent a lot of time listing the reasons against football. I also tried to be open-minded and identified some of the positive elements as well. But, my momma’s heart knew that football, at this specific time in my son’s life, was not the right move. I knew that I had the authority to say no. I knew that I had the reasons to say no. But that day I felt that the Lord was telling me to pursue football and to let Him show my son His will directly.
So after talking with my husband, we decided that we would start the process, and that we would let the Lord’s will unfold. I believe that my son was in a state of shock when we told him that we would pursue football. It was obvious that he expected us to say “no”. We explained our reasoning. Our son was at the age where he needed to see the Lord’s hand directly at work in his life. He needed to see that the Lord opens and closes doors when we seek His will. With confidence we told our son that the Lord would place him exactly where He wanted him. If that was on the football field, fine. If it was elsewhere, fine.
The first step in this process was a truly terrifying one for me: I needed to call the high school principal and introduce myself as a homeschooling mom in town. I just really did not even want to go there. While I am a meticulous record keeper and take my children’s studies very seriously, I did not want to open myself up to scrutiny, inquiry, or judgement. But knowing that the Lord was pushing us in this direction, I called. To my surprise, the principal was friendly, personable, and just downright nice. When I asked him about my son joining the football team he instantly said, “Yes, he can play.” He also commented that we were the first homeschool family in town to ever approach the school for such a request.
Wait, it was that easy? See our town is not a homeschool friendly town in the sense that my kids can actively participate in public school activities and sports. Some towns are like that, but mine is not. But apparently this principal was completely agreeable to having my son participate. He told me that he needed to touch base with the athletic director, who was on vacation for a week. He would then get back with me about the particulars.
I have to be honest. I was really disappointed that this football thing was going to happen. Like I said, I just knew in my heart that it was not right for my son at the time. However, I told my son the good news. He was elated.
While we waited for the athletic director to return, the principal needed my son to get a physical and to complete some forms. We headed off to the school, introduced ourselves to the principal, and completed all of the necessary paperwork. Then we waited.
Nearly a week to the day the principal called me back. He had spoken to the director who had abruptly answered “no” to my son joining the football team. He felt that my son would have a difficult time making his way in with a group of guys who were already tight knit.
Everything within me just wanted to thank the principal for his time and jump up and down in glee. However, I didn’t. His reason for the rejection did not hold water. I knew that there were rules on record about this very topic.
I told my son the news, and he too knew that he had the right to play. He asked me if I was just going to drop my efforts there. See, my son knows me all too well. He knows that the athletic director’s comments struck a nerve (which they did). He knows that my tendency is to confront injustice not simply turn a blind eye to it. I assured him that I had committed myself to fully attempt to make football happen for him. I would give a 100% effort. So I did some research regarding the current state law on the books, contacted our homeschool legal defense team, and pushed the issue a bit more with the principal.
There was some back and forth, but in the end, I was faxed a copy of the school board’s stance regarding homeschool participation in sports. It was literally a one sentence ruling: “Homeschoolers are not permitted to participate in public school sporting teams.” The board was within their legal rights to make this judgment because the state law was weak and allowed for too many local, school board exceptions.
I told my son that I had made my best effort. I was not willing to champion this fight any further and make this a legal pursuit. The Lord had closed the doors.
My son was disappointed.
But then there is the Lord. And there are times where He moves with such clarity and swiftness that His will is undeniable. He was about to do just that.
The very next day we received a phone call from our son’s Scout leader. The church that had chartered our Boy Scout Troop was transitioning away from Boy Scouts and to a new group, Trail Life. My son was asked to come onboard as a student leader. It would be a unique opportunity to be part of a new program from the ground up.
My husband and I knew, we just knew, that this was directly from the Lord. He had closed one door and almost instantaneously, opened another. As parents we fully understood what a great opportunity this was for our son. The experiences in leadership and service that would result from this venture would be far greater than anything that he could do on the football field.
My son was less than enthused about this new option, but he could not deny the fact that the Lord had opened this door, and that He wanted him to walk through it. I’d be lying if I said that my son skipped joyously through the newly opened door. He did not. He needed a rather generous shove from his parents.
Now four years removed from that day, I can look back at all that the Lord has done in the life of my son. His four years of servant leadership with Trail Life have helped make him into the strong leader that he is today. He has learned that it is through service that one leads. He begins his college career with an incredible set of life skills because of his time at Trail Life. Most importantly my son sees that yes indeed, the Lord does open and close doors when we seek His will for our lives. Though our desires and plans often differ from that of the Lord’s, His plan is always far better for us and is meant to make us and mold us more into the image of Christ.
I often look back at that day when my son asked me, “Mom, can I join the football team?” I speculate how different this four year journey of his may have been had I abruptly answered him with an emphatic, “NO”.
Please do understand, the Lord gives mothers and fathers authority in their households. It is our responsibility to sometimes simply say “no” for the good of our children. Child–governed homes are ones that are headed for disaster. Do not abdicate your parental responsibility or authority. However, and most importantly, listen to the leading of the Lord in your life. Then follow that leading.