I am in Brazil for the 2016 Olympics. It seems appropriate to republish a previous post to highlight the significance of this nation in my life.
True Confessions of a Soccer Fan
God, I am sorry. I am so, so sorry.
2014. This was our first live World Cup experience, and we were jazzed. The iconic Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro was pulsating with excitement as we made our way to our seats. The teams were warming up, and the noise was escalated as we inched our way to our ground-level seats.
Decibels of excitement were at a fever pitch. Fans were dancing, clapping, swinging and swaying; owners of vuvuzelas horns were blowing their piercing sounds relentlessly. Cameras were snapping and strangers were grouping for selfies as if we were all old friends.
Suddenly…without warning, in the midst of all of this, I had the strangest sensation. “I have been here before.” As I sat in my ground-level seat, it was as if The Holy Spirit gently turned my head to gaze up at the Top Tier, and a place where I, Debby, occupied a seat in 1970.
From that top-level seat then to my ground-level seat now, a personal journey of 44 years had transpired. The celebration around me faded as the Lord and I revisited my first trip to Brazil and to this world-renowned stadium.
A full-blown spiritual panic attack preceded my first trip 1970. As a university student, I was in a wrestling match with God. Prior to the trip, I was reading Come Help Change the World, by Bill Bright, and I was gripped by fear of my future. I was so afraid that God wanted me to go on vacation to Brazil, because He would one day force me to return as a missionary. I was terrified of letting the Lord control my life, fearing this would mean death to the life I dreamed of. I hyperventilated as I contemplated the result of such surrender.
I was too embarrassed to cancel the vacation trip, so, I soldiered ahead, packed, and boarded the plane.
Once on the ground of this fascinating South American nation, I lived with a gracious Brazilian family. They treated me to my first soccer match in this very same, famous Maracanã stadium. We cheered as the famous Pelé, considered by many to be the greatest soccer player of all time, played before his nation.
When the trip concluded, I kissed Brazil goodbye. I said, “Ciao” to Copacabana Beach, Sugarloaf Mountain, black beans, soccer and Maracanã Stadium. So I thought…
Upon returning to campus fall of 1970, my life was changed forever. I met a group of students who had a smile on their face, a song in their heart, and a spring in their step. They were marching to the beat of a different drum, and I joined their ranks. I yielded my life to Christ, and traded His plan for mine. “Anything, Anytime, Anywhere” became my personal manifesto. My clarion call, along with my colleagues was, “Come Help Change the World.”
My wrestling match with God was over. The fear-gripping spiritual panic attacks ceased, and a supernatural peace was mine.
Before long, I fell in love with a young football player. His proposal was, “Will you go with me in helping to reach the world for Christ?” My answer, “Yes,” has taken me to live in 4 countries with 4 cultures and 4 languages, seeking to bring the Good News of Jesus to an entire globe.
In all of this, Brazil was not even on my RADAR…until 2014 when I found myself in the same nation, in the same city, lo, even in the same stadium. The gripping fear on the Top Tier had been replaced with a blessed peace on the Bottom Bench. What I was adamantly opposed to, so extremely afraid of on the Top Tier, I was fiercely committed to on the Bottom Bench.
“God, I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry to have wrestled with you. I was foolish to think Your plan would ruin my life. Right here on this Bottom Bench I look up at the Top Tier and celebrate the 44-year journey from there to here, from then to now.
Thank You for patiently, lovingly drawing me to trust You. Releasing my tight-fisted grip on my life, saying to You, “Anything, Anytime, Anywhere” has led to greater blessing than I ever dreamed humanly possible. And God, Thank You for bringing me back to Brazil as a missionary. I confess, You were right all along."