“Daddy, the blessing didn’t get answered.”
My younger son’s tears continued to flow as we sat on the couch. His football season was over. In the second round of the playoffs, his team, the 8-year old Mill Creek Hawks* lost to the top seed team in the tourney, Parkview, 39-6. The loss dropped the team to 7-3 on the season.
His reference to the “blessing” referred to the previous Sunday. He’d worn his football jersey to church on Sunday, the day after his team won in the first round of the playoffs. Knowing he was facing the #1 seed, he wanted to show his team spirit and get a little extra help. After the service was over, we went up to the priest and explained the situation. He provided a blessing and also blessed my older son as well, whose team was also going to the playoffs last week. (My son’s team was the Phillies. There was no way he wearing a Phillies jersey into church.)
“Yes, it did,” I told my son. “The prayer was answered.”
“Dad, we lost.”
“I didn’t ask for you to win. I asked for a blessing for safety. The priest added one for sportsmanship.”
“What do you mean?”
I looked into his eyes. What was coming wasn’t an easy lesson. “You don’t ask God to help you win. You ask God to keep you and all the other players safe. You ask God to allow you to play your best.”
My son looked back at me. He was still sad but didn’t say anything. I knew that I needed to explain further. “Football is a dangerous sport but you wanted to play. People get hurt playing football. You don’t want see it happen but it’s a fact of the game.”
“I hurt my knee.”
“Do you want some ice for it?”
He thought for a second. “No.”
“Then you didn’t hurt it that badly. Listen to me. Did you have a good time this season?”
The answer came without hesitation. “Yes.”
“Do you want to play football next year?”
Again no hesitation. “Yes.”
“Then that’s all that matters. You’re safe. You had fun.”
My son’s tears had finally dried up, yet he still hadn’t quite understood what I said. And I don’t know if a couple of days perspective has helped. Maybe one day he will.
At the same time, I knew it was the truth. My two biggest concerns were that he have fun and that he be safe. And even though it was towards the end of the season when I asked for the blessing for him, I knew I’d been saying it every time he stepped onto the field.
And I admit I still wanted him to win.
But my prayers had been answered.
* There are actually three 8-year old teams in the Mill Creek area. All three are called the Mill Creek Hawks.