By Dan DiFolco
Things are different now. They just are. Big things cause big currents, and big currents cause turbulence.Turbulence causes comfort issues, and turbulence is not necessarily bad all the time because the outcome of it is perspective, unless it becomes dire.
Life as a referee or umpire can be seen in this imagery: Big plays, big calls, and tough rule implementations all can cause big currents in our game that then cause turbulence, which can make us and our crew uncomfortable. But we are told that the best at their jobs buckle down and in the middle of those big opportunities, stand firm on the boat and overcome (Mark 4 reference, anyone?). But I don’t want to talk about these currents on the floor, the turbulence of a game. I want to talk about the current that was released at REF Conference on August 25, 2018. Because as I said, it’s different now.
It’s different because now, as I travel for officiating engagements, I have the blessing of wearing gear that represents what I do as a passion, but more so, who I am as a Jesus follower (Shoutout to our partner Ref Life). This alone creates conversation. One that has people asking and saying, “what’s that?” or “Jesus and refereeing? that’s crazy.” I agree, it’s crazy the turbulence a clothing brand or a T-Shirt can make. That one look at a REF LIFE ‘T’ or a Sport Officials Surrendered logo on a bag or polo sparks conversation.
But this is just the surface of what’s changed.
Jesus says, “Where two or three are gather in my name, there am I with them," (Matthew 18:20). Well, a few months ago nearly 75 men and women from various sports and backgrounds gathered in His name and his presence has created a great change. The difference now is the group of referees and umpires that make up the body of Christ that have made themselves known.
It’s a “coming out” story. It’s a story of unity. It’s different because now where I go for refereeing endeavors, I hear about the Referees Embracing Faith Conference or Sport Officials Surrendered. It’s different because people are now engaging about a movement that many might understand as the power of Jesus. But it’s different now because those who call themselves Sport Officials Surrendered now just gave themselves more responsibility.
Now, it’s not just about knowing the rules, being a good partner and being a mechanic manual machine, but actually living out the light and love of Jesus. Attending REF Conference 2018 or supporting and claiming to be a Sport Official Surrendered is, in essence, a public declaration of your faith in a Savior who died for the sins of the world to reconcile God's children with their Heavenly Father. (And the Bible tells us about our public declaration of faith).
So now, things are changed and we have a decision in front of us, as some of our seasons come to an end, seasons begin, and preseason gets under way. This decision is, “how am I going to react in this time of change to the difference we just created?” Well here, I finally offer some “meat” for the “bone.” I call it the “3:12 principal,” but scripture calls it Colossians 3:12 and actually carries on through verse 17. But I’ll let you read the rest.
I offer up this 3:12 principal moving forward in all we are called to do now as a Sport Official Surrendered. It’s to do exactly as Colossians 3:12 states, “as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” DON'T MISTAKE ME HERE! This isn’t supposed to come easy. What comes easy is the ways of the world and the ways we’ve been programmed to act and respond.
Some might say to this, “all of this can be seen as a contradiction to our jobs as referees,” but to this I say, “Was Jesus’ life a life assimilation into the world? Was Jesus not a total Contradiction?”
God has called each one of us into a life that is completely different from the next person's. There is no duplicate life, especially to God. The only thing we have in common is one “Great Commission” on this side of Heaven. And if anything changes this year and if there is one thing you want to focus on this upcoming season that will impact you both on and off the floor or field, it’s the 3:12 Principal.
Choose to clothe yourself with compassion, to pour out kindness, walk humbly, be gentle, and as much possible, show patience. It will impact two lives greatly; first yours, and second the people you cross paths with living in such a way.
Some may not know Jesus, but through there interaction with you, will they want to know Him? Will you radiate His image and all the characteristics that displays? I pray that when we think of these 5 things we wrestle with questions such as: -How do we treat those we interact with on game days? (Those who serve: event staff, trainers, law enforcement, or maybe restaurant staff?) -How are we carrying ourselves around others? Do we have a hard appearance that creates a perception of ignorance, selfishness or disrespect? Things are different now. Oh, what a blessing it is that things are different because now the conversations about how Jesus and refereeing or umpiring correlate, or how faith impacts a passion of being a sport official, have begun. I know some of you have been praying for God to finally do something in your life and reveal Himself. Well, wake up call: things are different now, and I’ll tell you what, He is Faithful, and He only calls us to be faith-filled. Scripture For Reference ***Colossians 3:12-17*** *** Matthew 18:20*** *** Matthew 28:18-20 (Great Commission)***