Marvin Repinski: The day they tore the goal posts down

Published 6:30 am Saturday, September 18, 2021

“You should not gloat over your friends in the day of their misfortune, nor rejoice over people in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble.”  (Obadiah 1:12)

“I can hear you cheering before I even reach your feet.  You will not let me enter your presence with blood on my hands, guilt on my face.” (From the poem “Cheering” by Ana Lisa de Jong)

My thoughts are lingering on the violence, attacks and multiple cruel abominations of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. Can any of us get away from the pain of fires on one coast, floods on the other coast, hurricanes, and the boiling cauldron of Afghanistan? These are just a few of the problems that confront us. We pray, we hope for the resolution of issues larger than monsters.

The title of this essay is related to football and the inspiration and disappointment in each game. Many of us have football in our bones. A missed field goal and we may even shout a curse word! The title of goal posts, however, can serve as a figure of speech, a metaphor. The words of a popular song in my young adult years seemed to indicate uncontrolled joy of a victory over a yearly competition.

This brings me to the serious topics of the run-away statistics of our country and in other nations where children and youth are storming the city gates and resorting to kicking, punching, retaliation and some using firearms.  The hurt and killing of the innocent has merged with the streets, stores, highways and homes of a seemingly new breed of vandals.

I pause to remember pastoring to youth groups, of guiding young men and women to Rust College in Mississippi to gain racial understanding, to the Mall of America, and to the Boundary Waters for canoeing and frolicking in the clear waters of Mother Nature.

Is that still an option? For me it was a time of inclusiveness, of personal respect, helping neighbors, and attending youth meetings in a church.  What has happened?

I, with all my heart, applaud the organizations that encourage and give opportunities to groups that build maturity, friendships, parental respect, and goals that foster work, study, and, of course, fun!

The children and youth of today may resonate with the belief of Roxanne Gay. In “Sun,” she writes, “We don’t necessarily know how to hear stories about any kind of violence, because it is hard to accept that violence is as simple as it is complicated; that you can love someone who hurts you, that you can stay with someone who hurts you, that you can be hurt by someone who loves you, that you can be hurt by a complete stranger, that you can be hurt in so many terrible intimate ways.”

Hurt is like the rain — often unpredictable, like the gushing flooding waters that drown human dreams. The Austin Police Department, the Mower County Senior Center, area hospitals and clinics and churches may all welcome inquiries when looking for help.

Athletics can be a route to bring a purpose, friends, and wholeness to many men and women.

The Apostle Paul, by implication, knew about the Greek Olympics, and they were an encouragement, as he wrote in Phillippians 3:13-14, “One thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God.”  Also 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

We think of preparation, exercise, and performance in athletics, as an example of the loyalty and involvement of what our lives can be in a world that needs and asks for our participation. Many have limits on what and how that involvement may work, but the attitude and spirit behind our efforts are what matters.

At the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, John Stephen Akhwari was a marathon runner for Tanzania. During the race he fell, dislocated his knee, and injured his shoulder. In spite of his injuries he finished the race, although he was an hour behind the winner. When later asked why he didn’t give up, he replied, “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”