World Cup soccer (or football, as those in my country refer to it) brings together 32 nations in a celebration of the world’s most popular team sport. This year’s tournament, which is hosted by Russia and commenced in Moscow on June 14, has inspired players and fans around the world – both men and women.
This monthlong event has been an inspiration to me ever since I was a young footballer. And as a student of Christian Science and a keen sports enthusiast, I’ve found that an understanding of God has enhanced my appreciation of sports – as a player, coach, and spectator.
For example, some of the qualities I love to see expressed in sports are these: joy, creativity, beauty, skill, agility, resilience, and good sportsmanship. I see such qualities as coming from God, whose goodness is without limit, so it’s natural for us, as His creation, to express them. These lines from the Scriptures point to the freedom, strength, and grace of everyone’s true identity: “It is God that girdeth me with strength and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places” (Psalms 18:32, 33).
Expressing these qualities in any activity, including sports, is a way of glorifying God. In this way, competing in sports such as soccer can become a way of praising God and celebrating His goodness.
I’ve also found that an understanding of God can free us from limitations on and off the field. In her major work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of The Christian Science Monitor, writes: “Soul, or Spirit, is God, unchangeable and eternal; and man coexists with and reflects Soul, God, for man is God’s image” (p. 120).
To accept the idea that we are actually the expression of divine Soul rather than merely a material body or personality enables us to overcome limitations associated with a material sense of identity. We begin to perceive our own real nature (and everyone’s) as the creation of God, or the spiritual image of God – an identity revealed in the Bible. The ability to do this is universal; all are capable of expressing God’s goodness in a variety of ways.
Some time ago I injured a toe during a midweek session of rugby training. I knew from experience that fundamentally this wasn’t about an injured toe, but about understanding more clearly the nature of my true substance, or identity, as the image of God, Soul. Prayer, or communion with God, reveals the spiritual reality – the kingdom of God – where pain and limitation have no place. This would bring freedom and normal function.
In quiet prayer, I affirmed that my true substance is spiritual, indestructible, unbroken, and whole as the image of God, and I asked a fellow Christian Scientist who I knew would be praying with similar ideas to help me, too.
I was soon ready to play rugby again; the toe was healed, and I felt a renewed gratitude for my freedom to participate in this activity.
I love watching World Cup soccer games, but I like to think of the tournament as more than a celebration of a sport. To me, it is a celebration of God, divine Soul, and the qualities He expresses in each of us. All are able to contribute to an activity such as this in a way that will bring joy, satisfaction, and contentment. As this year’s World Cup tournament wraps up over the next week, may it continue to promote unity, mutual respect, and cooperation among competing nations and their supporters and bring delight and inspiration to many.