Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Refuge in Chaos

A deluge of emotions swirled among University of Tennessee athletic fans. Four basketball players, pulled over by police, were found in violation of several laws. An energetic young football coach deserted the university to return to a former employer in a weaker conference. Followers of the Volunteer sports program were stunned. Comments on Facebook, in blogs, and in other media reflected disarray. Yet on the basketball court, under the tutelage of Coach Pearl, the remaining players shocked the nation by defining character and honor as they defeated first the top ranked school in the nation, and then another ranked team from within their own conference. Leaders at the university hired a new football coach with deep roots within the Southeastern Conference and experience working in a winning program. While all this drama played out, a horrible earthquake devastated the nation of Haiti. Hundreds have died; horrible agony persists. Much infrastructure of this already poverty-stricken nation lies in ruins. People from around the world have rushed to help. Yet some of the aid has not reached those who need it. The Haitian experience brings perspective. Athletics can teach us valuable lessons about life. Life sometimes does not wait for those lessons to be learned and rushes in on the unprepared. I stumbled across a paragraph in the rarely read biblical book of Nahum this past week that gives hope in dire circumstances: "The mountains quake before him, and the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who live in it. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire and by him the rocks are broken in pieces. The Lord is good, a stronghold in a day of trouble; he protects those who take refuge in him"(Nahum 1:5-7 NRSV). When all in life crumbles arounds us, hope remains. In a world in which so much evil and horror exists, good remains. God protects those who take refuge in faith in his goodness rather than those who enjoy their acidic bitterness. Patient faith reveals that life prevails against the darkest and most terrible that life throws at us. A playoff loss by a favorite sports team won't ruin one's life. A hero's fall from favor will not devastate the balance of power among nations. God protects, and because he protects, believers assist and protect those who have for a time lost the ability to care for themselves. University of Tennessee students and fans will survive the recent upheavals in their athletic department. The people of Haiti will emerge from this crisis. Even in the midst of apparent chaos, order remains and hope persists.

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