musings on worship and christian living


An Observation from the Pine
October 4, 2008, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Life

There’s an old expression in the sports world for those on a team that aren’t playing.  One would say those individuals are “riding the pine”.  Benchwarmers, substitutes, second stringers, call them what you will, go to any sporting event and you can observe them in their natural habitat.  

Friday night I went to a high school football game to watch one of my former students play.  As I was taking in what ended up being a great game I couldn’t help but notice two very interesting little fellows standing on the sideline.  After watching them for a few quarters I couldn’t help but take a few pictures with my phone knowing they would end up the illustration of my next blog.  

Now you can tell from the size of these little guys in comparison to the varsity player that they are not really varsity football players.  Smaller schools routinely dress JV and even Freshman players to help bulk their sideline numbers, so it’s not a surprise to see them there.  The funny thing was watching what these riders of the pine did throughout the game.

They spent whole game staying out of the way and never left each others side.  The first time I noticed them they were in their own bubble working on a handshake that took about 2 minutes to finish.  As I continued to be drawn to their hijinks I watched them do little dances, high five each other, and laugh at jokes all while almost completely ignoring the game at hand.  At one point the bigger of the two sheepishly snuck up on the water boy and stole a Gatorade bottle to quench the thirst he worked up talking to his friend.  

Although I never met them I couldn’t help but feel a small bond with these little titans of the gridiron, and true to my style found an immediate application for their comical routine.  

Most of you know that October 1 was my first day of unemployment in several years.  Specifically it was my first day not being employed by Vancouver First Church in student ministry or music in 5 years.  So this week has been an interesting experience for me as I have gone from being responsible for making multiple ministries happen every week to having no responsibilities.  Essentially I went from the starting QB on the varsity team to just another guy riding the pine.

I really have spent some time thinking about the riders of the pine in the world, and realized that there are far more “benchwarmers” out their then those who actually have control over the game.  I also know there is nothing wrong with riding the bench, and am looking forward to doing it for a while.  But watching those little guys ham it up on the sideline and totally miss out on the game challenged my view of sitting on the bench.

I couldn’t help but think of another benchwarmer I observed over the years of following Beaver football.  Touted as the next great quarterback at OSU, Ryan Gunderson ending starting (to my remembrance) 1 game.  The difference between him and my tiny friends from Friday?  Ryan worked so hard and was such a positive influence on the team that his senior season he was voted one of the team captains, which is absolutely unheard of for a non-starter.  

So in this time of transition I’m left with the challenge to stay engaged, to keep my mind and heart focused on the game even though I’m not calling the shots.  And I’m wondering how those of you who are riding the pine with me have chosen to see your role.  Is it one of opportunity, growth, encouragement and support?  Or is it one of special hand shakes irrelevance?

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