Does your husband like playing football?” Andy Nash asked.
“I don’t know,” I answered. Rob and I were newlyweds. There was still a lot to learn about each other.
Andy was putting together a team, but not just any team. About half the team would be made up of church members. The other spots would be open for community members to join us. This would be a witnessing opportunity, Andy decided. Even the name that was chosen reflected our beliefs in hope it would prompt questions.
Not only are Rob and I both introverts, but we had both just graduated from more than 15 years at Adventist institutions. I knew I should be witnessing to the non-Adventists around me, like the young couple in our building that we would chat with from time to time, but I was terrified.
“I don’t know how to talk to non-Adventists,” I admitted one evening at the small group Bible study Andy led.
“It’s easy,” a group member responded, probably someone who was more extroverted and had spent more time around non-Adventists. “You talk to them just as you would talk to anyone.”
But for me it wasn’t easy. Adventism was my world, and I felt my tongue tripping all over itself whenever I tried to translate often-used Adventist phrases for those outside the church.
I wasn’t ready to witness to non-Adventists yet, but I could watch my husband play football.
Andy’s team was terrible. No, that’s an understatement. All through the first season the men didn’t score a single touchdown.
I sat with the other wives and cheered for them anyway, feeling proud that our husbands maintained a good attitude even if they faced what may be the worst losing streak in the history of community football.
The men befriended the other members of the team, and we wives included the other women in our cheering section. Despite the lack of touchdowns, everyone had fun.
When the next season rolled around, there were a few new community members on the team.
“The team I was on last year won the championship,” I heard one of the newcomers say.
I leaned forward in my chair. “This team didn’t even score a single touchdown last year,” I said. He nodded casually, revealing to me that this was not news to him. “So why did you leave a winning team to play with us?” I asked.
“The other team was too competitive. It wasn’t any fun. I saw how much fun your guys were having, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Our husbands had lived their faith on the field and in doing so had drawn someone into their circle.
Maybe that’s what it means to be “in the world” (engaging with community members) but not “of the world” (behaving like them). Perhaps we were the winning team after all.