Writings by Cole Huffman


Gestures and Postures

Yesterday afternoon I watched a professional football game. The two teams played with a passion befitting their rivalry. In a tight fourth quarter the visiting quarterback, upon completing a key third down pass play, turned both his eyes and index fingers skyward in a familiar athletic gesture of gratitude to God. The very next play, he threw an interception and trotted off the field, chin on his chest.

Thought question: does God also "convert" key third down completions for believing quarterbacks? What if God actually sent the interception? Is there room in a proper gridiron theology for receiving turnovers from the Lord as well as first downs (cf. Job 2:10)? Is there even such a thing as gridiron theology?

Yes, those of us who think quickly of 1 Corinthians 10:31 will say, there is. Football is certainly within the purview of the "whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" in that verse. And, looking at that 1 Corinthians 10 context, my eye catches the verse immediately before, verse 30, where Paul expresses incredulity at anyone who would denounce his expression of gratitude for that which he was grateful for (the context has to do with whether a Christian could eat meat offered to idols—a subject I think many football players, knowing well their way to the delicatessen, would find interesting). So I'm not criticizing the quarterback's first down praise, no more than I would want to be criticized for making the same gesture in my office when a dreaded phone call is well-received.

On a Sunday morning a few weeks back two of my church members waited for me after a sermon. One thrilled me with tears in his eyes for how God is using him to reach a neighbor; the other picked off the joy with a complaint. One moment I was exulting in the flight of a ball well-caught; the next the air was out of the ball.

It will be for another post to consider how it is possible to give thanks for the defensive back as well as my receiver (Romans 5 teaches as much). Strange would be the quarterback who did in a game. But then witness how most pro football games end with opposing players meeting midfield, standing around chatting. One occasionally sees in those moments a sports-world wonder of wonders: the defensive back who intercepted the quarterback turns out to be his old college teammate, and they embrace and ask about each other's children.

This post is really not about football. It's about recognizing myself—and likely you too—in the quarterback's responses to the great play and the bad play. When I am glad or relieved or achieving, it's chest bumps and fist pumps, head back and hands raised. These are gestures. When I am dismayed or upset or missing my targets, it's shoulder slumps and head droops. These are postures.

The difference is slight. A gesture is chosen, a posture emerges. A gesture is conditioned, a posture is ingrained. In other words, my postures come more natural to me. And this is why, in John Piper's way of putting it, I have to fight for joy; why I need and want to thank God profusely for every positive yard gained at church, home, life.

The bottom may fall out the next play. How does the Bible put it? Sin crouches, pestilence stalks at midday, the flesh is weak. God is not arbitrary. Life is. But when it is the gestures of praise and gratitude coach my posture back upright in order to return to the line of scrimmage. Not reluctantly but eagerly.

Posted by Cole Huffman at 2:58 PM