I am a fan. At least I have been. I became a full-fledged fan for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons when I was in college. I had planned not to be a fan, continuing my anti-school-spirit that served me so well in high school. That spirit kept me negative and anti-social, and brought all the fun associated with misery.
But my suite of freshman guys helped me get a school spirit life. I found that it is fun to have school spirit. I liked sports anyway, so pulling for my team live-and-in-person was really cool. So, I went all out for sports. Although I never painted my face, I did spend the night out for tickets and even bought season basketball tickets one year, guaranteeing me excellent seats. I went to the last Big Four Basketball Tournament in 1980, which my team won! I never missed a conference football or basketball game in my four years of college.
Looking back, though, I see that I left some of my soul on the field or court. That's really good for a competitor, but for a fan, it might not be healthy. I mean, I spent many weekends in a semi-depressed state because my football team lost. How could they throw that interception? If only he had caught that pass. Why did the coach call that play? I would run those scenarios in my mind all weekend. I would hold on to those mental gymnastics and really feel the loss.
One day it occurred to me that I did not have to think that way. I had no control over the past, and even during the game I really had no control. I was only a spectator, but I grieved and regretted and celebrated like an actual player. I realized that was not healthy. It really helped me to let go of the events over which I had no control. I could still celebrate and enjoy the victories, but not take the losses to heart. That badge of fanhood -- feeling depressed -- was not a badge I really wanted to wear.
I'm learning to balance allegiance to my team with my mental health. Frankly, I don't know how those sports announcers can manage when their teams are losers.
Anyway, I see the same pattern as I invest my life in other people. I am pulling for people to make good decisions and experience personal victory. When they make poor decisions, from my perspective, I feel like I have personally failed. What could I have said differently? How could I have been a better friend? But these are their decisions, not mine. I don't have (and don't want to have) control over others' lives. I may have some influence, but that's it.
So, when people settle for second best, disobey Jesus, or excuse their mixed up priorities, I take it personally. I'm pulling for them. I love to celebrate the victories, and I do. But I overdo the ownership of loss. It doesn't help them or me.
I'm pulling for you, but I'm learning how to do that responsibly. It's your problem, not mine. I'm here for you, cheering you on to victory. When you lose, I want to divide your sorrows. When you win, I want to multiply your joys. But ultimately, your life is between you and God. And so, my real effort needs to be in praying for you, and praying for me to be a better friend.
And obviously my problems are not your responsibility either, but you can call me out and cheer me on.
He's the One in charge of both you and me. And we know he will win.