Thirty years ago the United States Olympic hockey team, a bunch of no-name college kids, beat the dominant and superior USSR hockey team on the way to winning a gold medal. It was an amazing event. One of the greatest upsets in sports history.
During the training leading up to the Olympics, coach Herb Brooks had to turn these varied group of talented college kids into a single cohesive team. At first, they all stuck to their own cliques. The Boston University guys stuck together. The University of Minnesota guys stuck together. They were players on the same team, but not playing as a team.
As seen in the Disney film Miracle, after one halfhearted effort during a scrimmage game, Brooks wouldn’t let the team leave the ice. Instead, after the fans had gone, he made them get on the ice in order for them to do the hockey equivalent of suicides, which are skating back and forth the length of the ice over and over and over again. During the process, he’d ask a player, “Who do you play for?” They’d respond by their college… “Boston University” or “University of Minnesota.”
And he kept them going. Skating and skating, asking “Who do you play for?”
Only when captain Mike Eruzione said “The United States of America!” did the suicides stop. They needed to lose their old allegiances to become one unit, one team, fighting for the same cause and willing to sacrifice and support each other during the process.
Our spiritual lives are a lot like that. We are all members of the same team… the Body of Christ. But, have we lost our own identities yet? Are we still Joe the Catholic or Jane the Protestant or Dave the salesman or Gayle the writer? If God were to ask us “Who do you live for?” Would our answer be “my children” or “my wife” or “my job?”
If we want to be a true member of the Body of Christ, God will have to work it out of us, like coach Brooks did in 1980. God will have to force us to work hard, sacrifice, sweat, bleed, feel pain, feel exhausted, until we lose our own identities and embrace our role on the team.
Jesus himself tells us that by losing ourselves we will be found. He says that His ways are not Our ways and that the world will reject us as they rejected Him. Look at the Apostles… when they followed Jesus the lost everything. Their careers, their families and eventually their lives. The lost themselves, yet found salvation through Jesus Christ.
When things are tough and God is challenging us, perhaps he’s just trying to get us to remember who we really are… members of His body.
When God asks us “Who do you live for?” Our answer should be “You, Lord, Jesus Christ!”
And our treasure will not be a gold medal hanging around our necks. Instead it will be an eternal treasure in the presence of our Creator until the end of time.