Among the things I find utterly confounding about soccer is “stoppage time” (a.k.a. “time added on”).
It proved a boon to the German side in yesterday’s World Cup action, providing the chronological margin required for them to score the go-ahead goal against Sweden. And a scintillating play it was: trickery, augmented by stupendous marksmanship.
But for the life of me, I couldn’t keep from thinking about “stoppage time”: The mysterious extra playing time that’s routinely awarded after the game clock has expired. In the Germany-Sweden match, it amounted to 5 minutes…almost all of which ticked by before the winners managed their decisive tally.
And then, weirdly, I noticed that the game went on. And on. And on. Somehow, two additional minutes of playing time were deemed merited by the referee – who’s apparently the only person, among the tens of thousands watching in the stadium, not to mention the billions tuned in around the world, who knows when the game will actually end.
Like I said: Weird.
I don’t think I’ll ever really understand “stoppage time.” (And don’t get me started on the even-more-impenetrable declaration of “offsides”.) But perhaps this inscrutable mystery is part of what soccer fans love about their sport.
We do like to think we have things all figured out, after all. Then along comes something like “stoppage time” to remind us how little we actually know for certain. And as the Germany-Sweden match proved, that unknowable margin can sometimes determine winners and losers.
So then we come to Psalm 139. On this, the feast day when we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist, the Psalmist asks us to sit with one of life’s greatest mysteries – the intimate nature of God:
O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.
Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works.
My soul also you knew full well;
nor was my frame unknown to you
When I was made in secret,
when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth.
Perhaps we need stoppage time, to let something like this sink in: “Lord, you have probed me and you know me…” It’s a mystery, beyond comprehension, why the Lord of the Cosmos would care to know me.
When I consider the impact of this Divine Desire, I am moved to join in the Baptist’s familiar refrain: “I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.