It was being referred to as an historic event around school. Both the girls’ and the boys’ high school soccer teams had made it to the semifinals for state championship. Both had won the coin toss to have home field advantage. And both would be playing back to back games on a warm Tuesday night. It really was historic for our school.
But little did I know that the term historic event would take on a whole new meaning for my family that night.
The girls’ team was to play first against a team from Macon. We arrived shortly after kick off. Our school only has one set of stands so the home team takes the left side and the visitors take the right. We quickly found the home team’s section to be full and made our way down to where the visitor’s team was sitting.
It didn’t take long to realize our mistake.
At the entrance to our stadium is the following sign:
Clearly a handful of these parents had not seen it.
Every call the ref made was “wrong” and insults began flying her way. They started as the typical “are you blind!?!” and “how much are they paying you?!?!” but they quickly became personal. They called her names like “fat a$$,” and worse. They screamed that they didn’t like the “home cooked meals” she was serving up.
And their insults weren’t saved for her alone. They made claims that “paying off the refs” must be what a Christian school has to do to win.
In fairness, the official did miss a pretty big call in their favor. But she also missed one in our favor. It’s just part of the game when imperfect people are asked to officiate. I thought we were all on the same page about this.
I guess I thought wrong…
And as the insults got stronger and the words got nastier…we all just sat there. Sure…there were glances back in the hopes they would take a hint (they didn’t), and we all shifted uncomfortably in our seats. But we remained silent. In all honesty, I thought that was the right thing to do. After all, we were Christians who were not only representing our school…but our Savior. I was confident that anything we did would solidify in these people’s minds how a Christian behaves. So we were all on our best behavior.
And then the official yellow carded one of their players.
It was about 15 minutes into the second half. Our girls were dominating. The visiting team’s parents were frustrated over what they felt was biased officiating. Suddenly one of their girls took out one of ours. It was pretty blatant. The whistle blew and the yellow card went up.
And that’s when the visiting team’s parents lost it.
They were on their feet screaming; using every profane word in the English language. The high schoolers, who lined the side line as they watched the game, all turned around and stared up in amazement. The elementary students playing on the track stopped and stared in amazement. My eight-year-old daughter, sitting next to me, turned around in her seat and stared in amazement. She had never seen adults behave this way before, and the confusion was clear on her face.
Finally, a mom sitting in front of us spoke up. As she turned in her seat she yelled back in desperation to get them under control, “Language!” She made eye contact with one dad in particular who looked at her and snarled, “Shut up!”
I was appalled. I looked at him and said, “There are children all over! Will you please stop???” Unbeknownst to me at the time, as I turned around he told me to shut up. But he didn’t just tell me to shut up. He called me a name. You know the one…it means female dog. And for good measure, he threw in the “F word” as its adjective.
Suddenly a flash of grey went past my eyes and I thought, “What was that?” As I turned to look, I saw my husband going after this man.
You have to know my husband. Matt’s not a hot head. He doesn’t fight. In fact, he doesn’t even argue very much which can be maddening since I am Italian and fighting is in my blood. As I laid in bed last night I tried to think of the number of times I have seen him angry in the 16 years we have been together.
Four times I have seen anger in my husband in 16 years. Sure, he has gotten frustrated over things, but truly angry? I can think of four times. Things don’t upset him very much (another maddening trait), and he is extremely mild mannered. He prefers to handle things with humor. And while he can sometimes take his humor too far…never, ever his anger. So imagine my surprise when I see my husband going after this man.
I jumped up and ran after him. I am not sure what Matt said to him because I was on the stadium step below him, trying to pull him down, but the man shoved Matt and screamed “Let’s go! You wanna go?!?! Let’s do this!” And with testosterone and adrenaline running through his veins and the words of this man pounding in his ears…
The man shoved him again. This time so hard it pushed Matt off the level he was standing on and into me, knocking me to the ground. Matt got right back up.
At this point there were other dads intervening and getting between this man and Matt. Arms were flying everywhere and he pushed Matt one more time, continuing to scream in his face “Let’s go! You wanna go?!?! Let’s go!”
And once again…Matt refrained.
Another dad looked at Matt and quietly said, “He’s not worth it.”
And just like that, it was over. Matt walked back to his seat and I followed, but not before I looked at the man and yelled “YOU ARE UNBELIEVABLE!” It wasn’t one of my finer moments and, in truth, it was pretty corny. What can I say…the adrenaline was pumping.
We both sat down and were shaking. Silence. Nobody was saying a word around us.
After two minutes the Headmaster of our school showed up.
At this point, all I knew was that this has happened in front of our daughter as well as our entire school. I had assumed Matt had been shoving the guy back because I just saw arms everywhere. I didn’t know the man had called me what he called me. And now the Headmaster of our school had shown up.
I was humiliated and angrier than I have ever been at my husband.
The headmaster sat with us for the remainder of the game and my humiliation only grew. I could feel everyone’s eyes on us. We had failed. My intention had been to set an example for these people and to represent both our school and Jesus in the best way I knew how. And, in my mind, we had failed.
But let’s be honest. While I am sure that played a part in what I was feeling, the real thing I cared about in that moment was what the other parents at our school thought about us.
The game mercifully ended and our girls shut them out 4-0. And the visiting team parents? They were pretty silent the remainder of the game.
Once the visiting team was gone, our Headmaster patted Matt on the back and left to watch the boys’ team play their game. I finally had the chance to talk to Matt. And by “talk” I really mean I lit into him and tore him up one side and down the other. I told him he humiliated me and scared our daughter. I went on and on.
When I finally let him get a word in, he simply said, “the guy called you a BLANKING BLANK. What did you want me to do?” I quickly turned to my friend and told her what Matt had just told me. She said, “I heard him say that too.” I turned back to Matt and continued my tirade stating he had no right fighting. He calmly looked at me and said, “I never touched him. He shoved me three times. I never touched him.”
My mind reeled. Was that right? I suddenly realized I never actually saw my husband shove him. I just assumed he had…because I wanted to!
I would like to tell you that this changed my entire perspective. I would like to say that I was proud of my husband. I would like to tell you that this changed everything in my mind.
But I would be lying.
All I cared about was…what were the other parents and faculty saying about us?
I told him he should have never gotten out of his seat. He had no business going after that guy. I pleaded with him to realize that the guy could have been crazy and pulled a gun on him.
I basically tried to convince him that he should have just sat and done nothing while three separate women were verbally abused by this man. That the “Christian way” of handling it was to remain seated and silent.
All to spare me the embarrassment of others looking at us and talking about us.
This morning I awoke with a different perspective. I looked at my husband and saw…a hero. I saw a man who saw injustice and evil and stood up to it. I saw a man who was willing to risk his own safety just to stand up for what was right.
And in myself?
I saw someone who is willing to ignore abuse in order to not “rock the boat”. Someone who is willing to “turn a blind eye” to ensure people wouldn’t talk. I realized that I only thought about the parts in the Bible that tell us to “turn the other cheek,” but ignored Jesus clearing the temple in anger and God being referred to as a lion.
I’m not proud.
Today my daughter’s grade led chapel at school. The topic?
Irony at its finest. Matt turned to me after and said, “Sure wish I had heard this message one day earlier!”
And that’s when the conviction set in. I had convinced him that my self-serving way was right and his selfless way was wrong.
The truth is…he didn’t need this lesson yesterday. He stood up for what was right. And, in spite of his adrenaline racing and his testosterone pumping, in spite of a man shoving him repeatedly and screaming in his face, he managed to keep his hands to himself.
So while the timing of today’s lesson was hardly coincidental, I think it was more for my benefit than his. Because I finally realized that my husband didn’t need a lesson on self-control yesterday.
Kristina Gansser is a well-established blogger, known especially for chronicling the journey of her best friend's husband's battle with terminal cancer. Her writing is poignant, real, and a breath of fresh air to read. I'd encourage you to check out www.ConcreteFaith.org and read the story of Travis Roberts from the beginning. It's an incredible story of redemption and God's grace and love, displayed in the midst of tragically painful circumstances. Thanks for writing for FF2L, Keeks! -- Jordan