It's good they stink

I have my Sundays back!

The life of a youth pastor revolves around Sunday--at least it does for me, since our youth ministry meets on Sunday evenings, and of course we have church in the morning. Every fall Sunday since I've been at Mountain View, I've felt the frustrating tug of my other career -- being a Pittsburgh Steelers' fan.

Yes, I know it sounds trivial, but one of the challenges of the life I've chosen is that Sunday afternoons in the fall do not allow me to watch much football. Both my location (Maryland -- few Steeler games on TV) and schedule (Sundays very full) make it difficult to indulge one of my primary hobbies. With the Steelers being so good the past 10 years or so, I've constantly wrestled with getting ready for youth group while wondering what my beloved team is doing.

Imagine the inner tension. There have been many times when I've had a meeting after church, or had to leave home at 4:00, just as the rare televised game was beginning. There have been many nights I had to turn the TV off in our youth room--right in the middle of the 4th quarter of a close game--because it was time to start worship. Two years ago, I heard about the fateful Tebow playoff pass to beat the Steelers from one of the kids checking his phone during my sermon. Twice in the past six years, I've had to make a difficult choice between watching the AFC Championship Game or teaching a lesson about Jesus. (The game won once; Jesus won once)

But this year that's not an issue. The Steelers are bad, really bad. They won yesterday, but they are 3-6 and have little hope of making the playoffs. They have lost to perennial also-rans like the Raiders, Titans and Vikings. Their defense had the all-time worst day in franchise history against the Patriots. It's embarrassing. It's sad.

But it's also a bit of a relief! You see, this fall, instead of worrying about what the Steelers are doing, I've been set free. With defeat mostly assured before the game starts, I've been more focused on my work. I've been able to get fully prepared. I've been able to hang out with students without being grumpy or distracted. I've been able to look a taunting Ravens fan in the eye and say, "How was your week." I've been "in the zone"--and not the red one, unless you mean the words of Jesus printed in my Bible.

So for now, it's good the Steelers stink. It makes me a better pastor and maybe a better person. Here's hoping next year's NFL draft will make me a worse one.