One day, in-between soccer games, the boys on my team were annoying me a lot. They were not listening to the adults, they were messing around, kicking each other, saying unkind words to one another and acting out of control. On top of that, it was 100 degrees outside, I was dehydrated, grumpy and ready to not be around 17 obnoxious 7th & 8th grade boys.
As I sat in the sun, one of our boys saw a tattoo and expressed how ‘unclean’ tattoos were in his culture. I asked him why it’s bad, and his response fascinated me:
“Because if you have tattoos, God will not hear your prayers. When we pray, we need to be completely clean before God. If we are not completely clean and innocent, He cannot hear us. If something is on our skin or on our hearts, God will not hear us. God is counting our good deeds and our bad deeds and we need to come before him completely clean.”
My heart broke. My response to the four boys gathered around me was, “Do you think that your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds today?”
Their response was, “Yes! We won the game and we are doing well!”
Me: “Really? You guys were just fighting with each other and speaking unkind words to one another, do your good deeds truly outweigh your bad ones? Are you clean enough to approach God in prayer?”
Their response was sincere and full of despair: “No, Coach. We are too bad for God to hear us.”
My response, with a few parents now leaning in: “There is One who was perfectly clean. His name is Jesus and because of him and what he did on the cross, He wants to give us His cleanness and then we can approach God anytime, anywhere. I know how messed up I am. My bad deeds FAR outweigh my good deeds. But that is not the case with Jesus. I put my trust in him and I forever know that He hears me. Jesus makes us clean. He has healed my back from a disease, healed my heart and He loves to hear his children pray to him. That is the power of Jesus.”
Their response: “Wow. That is very different than anything we have ever heard. That is not what we have been taught. But it sounds very good.”
Me: “You are correct. I hope that we can talk about this more with you and your parents in the near future because there is nothing more important.”
God continues to teach us that it’s in the mundane and it’s in the interruptions in life that He is giving us opportunities to share of the hope that’s within us. It’s not about the big outreach events. It’s about the one-on-one conversations in the cars, at the table, on the fields where He is doing something truly remarkable. He took my hard, grumpy heart in that moment and melted it for the boys who are utterly lost on my soccer team. Pray that they could one day put their trust in the Savior who accepts them and longs to hear their prayers and answer them in amazing ways.
Name and identity of author removed for safety.