On Friday night, high school football ended for our son and his team. If there had been a series of upsets and wins, there was still a chance we could have somehow made the playoffs. But that didn’t happen. For the first time in eight years, the South Border Mustangs are not in the playoffs. We lost 50-24 to an undefeated Shiloh Christian. We played on their beautiful field in the big town of Bismarck, 100 miles from our rural, prairie home.
It was an emotional night I had been dreading. The end of high school football. The first of many lasts of this senior year for our son, Hunter. My family was there and I didn’t feel sad as expected. A lifelong friend came with her family. Visiting and enjoying a fall evening as our last game gave me joy for the journey we have had through football.
During the fourth quarter the Shiloh announcer said a couple of times that Shiloh’s team will meet in the middle of the field for a time of prayer and invited South Border and the student body to join them. As the clock ticked down, I grabbed my camera and asked our high school girls in the stands to join me on the field.
By the time we walked to the middle of the field, the prayer time had started. Shiloh prayed first and then stood up as it ended. Hunter, our son, said something and everyone went back down on their knees and into prayer again. This time, Hunter prayed. I couldn’t hear his words, only his voice as I stood back and looked at the moment from my camera.
Anyone who has observed me as a parent in elementary, junior high and then high school sports has seen a change in me. I scream less and am calmer than I used to be. I’m still an intense mom but initially, I was focused on winning more than anything else.
Hunter has played four sports through hundreds of games. By the end of ninth grade, God changed my heart. There was clearly something bigger that was supposed to come out of high school sports for Hunter than wins and losses. I changed my “winning” prayers to “please give Hunter an opportunity in sports to give You glory, God.”
Last year in Wishek, where we live, a small group of students with adult supervisors and encouragers started the first Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter that meets Monday mornings before school. Hunter is active in participating and leading the small group times. His college decision was impacted by examples of Christian coaches, how they live their lives and how it impacts their coaching. Next fall, Hunter will begin college at the University of North Dakota on football and academic scholarships.
As high school football ended for Hunter, God reminded me He answered my prayer.
“Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6