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

Eu acredito! (I believe!)

Brazilian supporters

 

Dear courteous reader, I am sorry if this starts to annoy you. I thought there would be no part three, but what can I say? Watching the drama of yesterday’s penalty shootout sent shivers down my spine, bringing me back to the memories of my own penalty shootouts. Well, for your convenience, I promise I’ll make this one a tad shorter than the second part.

The referee blew the whistle. It was the end of 120 minutes of nerve-racking conflict between two equal sides. Everyone knew what it meant: the dreaded penalty shootout―a lottery contest to determine the winner and the loser. The horror of failing to qualify was plainly written in the Brazilian players’ faces. Captain Thiago Silva covered his face as he couldn’t bear to look at the massive yellow crowd in front of him. Poor him! I don’t need to explain how great the pressure was on the players. It might take another sixty years before Brazil would host the World Cup again. Every Brazilians were dreaming, dreaming of winning the World Cup in their own land, and now that dream hung heavily on the shoulders of the penalty takers.

The scoreline read 2-2. Up stepped Neymar, Brazil’s fifth penalty taker. He knew if he missed this one, that dream would be very likely to shatter to pieces. A nation’s dream, Ladies and Gentlemen! Imagine the suspense, listen to his heart thumping as he walked from the halfway line forward. He put the ball on the white spot. His complexion changed. Just a minute ago he was agitated and uneasy. Now, though, he seemed very composed and so sure that he would score. He looked intently at the goal and made up his mind. He ran forward. He swung his leg…

It is never easy for me to fully believe in something. I don’t know why―maybe it’s in my DNA―I always open some rooms to suspicion. This doesn’t help me at all when I am searching for that Hand in darkness. No, don’t misunderstand me, I do believe in Him, but it just feels agonizingly hard for me to surrender completely to a God that I don’t know really well. There’s always the doubt that there is nothing at all up there. I have asked numerous times for a conclusive proof to settle this once and for all―call me Thomas if you’d like―but nothing has been given yet.

Things get rough when I am having a navigational problem. As you have probably known, my ship had been struck by a heavy storm. Even without a storm the voyage itself is already frightening me a lot, and now what happened? A heavy storm, Ladies and Gentlemen!―as if the wave itself is not enough. It is not surprising, really, that I then looked for the Hand. Sadly, though, I don’t know Him well enough. It was very hard to be assured when one doesn’t know Him well.

It is frustrating to realize that no matter how hard I tried to suppress it, doubt always manage to arrive (rather on time, unfortunately). The result is predictable: I become afraid. Although fear is a normal thing during situation like this, sometimes―if it is allowed to grow larger―it can impair one’s ability to fight back.

The Brazilians are not the only ones dreaming. I am dreaming too. Without any offense to His omnipotence, I think I won’t get there with doubt still lingering inside me.

My friend once asked me on how to take a penalty―I had a pretty good record on penalties. Straight out, I answered: “Well, first of all you have to ask yourself whether you’re ready or not to take it. If you’re not ready, don’t take it. If you’re ready, take it. At this stage it is okay to have some doubts in your heart, but once you step up to take it you have to be 100% blindly sure that you will score. This won’t make your leg stronger, but somehow it will condition your mind to give its best. That’s the art of penalty taking, to achieve a state of mind where doubt no longer exist.”

When I watched yesterday’s penalty shootout I can understand how it was like to be in Neymar’s shoe at that moment. Somehow I could relate his tension with my own tension, and zap! It occurred to me that maybe living is―to some extent―similar to penalty taking: let no doubt take away the goal, the dream.

Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Katharina von Schlegel

P.S.: After Chile’s last taker of the shootout failed to score, Brazilians in São Paulo lit up fireworks to celebrate the thrilling victory. I hope one day Jakarta would be doing the same.

P.P.S.: I apologize yet again, dear courteous reader, for I can’t keep my promise. This post is longer than the second part.

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