On Penalty Shootout and the Underlying Garment of Faith (part II)

What? Another football-related post?

an annoyed reader

Dear courteous reader, I’ve never intended to make a sequel to this post, but what can I say? To not write the second part would be a real shame. And to not read it would be a disgrace. So if you’ve already felt like clicking that small ‘x’ button on your browser, for Pete’s sake, please hang on a minute.

Four days after I posted the first part, we had yet another penalty shootout. Yes, another penalty shootout. It was a dreadful situation and surely took its toll on the players. As soon as the referee signaled the end of extra time, anxiety was painted on the players’ face. Actually, the sheer simplicity of penalty shootout made it worse: if you miss the kick, you let your team down. It was as simple as that. So everybody was praying like crazy, like there’s a swarm of intergalactic spaceships en route to obliterate the entire Life on Earth.

I hate to recount that shootout, so to your relief I will make it short: we lost. It was tragic, given we worked that hard to equalize twice during normal time. And nothing was more tragic than to realize that all the sweat on the training ground didn’t pay off, that all the dream had shattered into pieces. So vivid was the dream that some players even cried on the pitch.

Well, maybe I exaggerated the description a bit, maybe those who cried were sentimental blokes, but you get the picture. After the match, all heads were bent down, contemplating, “what’s the use of training that hard if I was to be beaten on penalty shootout?”. But not me, ladies and gentlemen, not me. I was contemplating a completely different thing.

“So what’s the use of all that prayer?” thought I. Well, from an engineering point of view, if there’s no output, then the efficiency is zero. If the efficiency is zero, it means it isn’t working. Not a bit. And believe me, nothing was more miserable than seeing your machine not working.

Further up the afternoon I wondered, “Why did they win the shootout?” Does that mean He loves them more than us? Oh you poor creature, forsaken by your Lord. How brilliant it must be to be His chosen people. I sunk on my chair and puffed a fag. Throughout the entire evening my mood swung from bad to awful, and I have to be honest, nothing was more heartbreaking than realizing that that Hand, who had guided you all along, is now simply gone.

But is the machine not working, really? I don’t hold a degree in theology and I’m not a saint either, so I can’t say I have the perfect authority to say this, but I think it’s not a machine. Working or not working is not in a prayer’s nature. What’s the true nature, then? Well, frankly, it’s still a mystery to me.

And is the Hand really gone? Nope. Not a chance, mate. The ship is still on course.

In Gethsemane the holiest of all petitioners prayed three times that a certain cup might pass from Him. It did not.

Clive Staples Lewis, The Efficacy of Prayer

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