Michael’s skates made the familiar whooshing noise followed by a spray of ice as he got ready to tackle his best friend, Josh. Josh’s face broke into a grin and both boys fell down on the hard, cold surface. They loved hockey. Unfortunately neither had that elite skill level to stand out and with that territory came not being very popular with the team. But at least they had each other.
A short burst of a whistle routed them up onto their skates and gliding toward the benches. The rest of the team was already on one knee waiting for instructions from the coaches.
As the team lined up in the corners of the rink to start the drill, Michael’s mind wandered to a recent conversation with his mom. His mind wandering was one of the things that affected his hockey playing.
“So Ms. Johnson said we could talk to God anytime. And about anything. Is that true mom?”
“Yes, of course honey it’s true. That’s what prayer is. Talking to God about what’s on your heart. “
“So I can talk to Him about like … homework?”
“What about hockey?”
“Yes hockey too. Anything … anytime.”
“Are there like … rules about praying?”
“What do you mean Mike? What kind of rules?”
“I don’t know … maybe … do we have to close our eyes and bow our head and be on our knees?”
“Oh I see what you mean. Can we only pray in a certain posture? No Mike. The only posture that God cares about is that your heart is bowed to Him.”
“Well how do I bow my heart?”
“A heart that is bowed before God is humble; thinking of how great God is, not just what we want. That heart is willing to accept whatever answer God thinks is best.”
“You mean if I talk to Him … He’s going to answer me?”
“Yes Mike. Prayer is conversation with God … like what we are doing now.”
“How will I hear Him?”
His mom’s eyes had gotten misty and she had stilled her hands from washing the dishes.
“It is like a voice in your heart … that speaks to your life … what is important … what is just regular.”
“Hey Nesbaum! Are you going to move or what?”
Michael jerked himself back into the moment. Looking around he saw it was his turn to shoot with everyone staring. He hunched his shoulders and placed his stick carefully to the puck. Then Michael pushed off and headed toward the net. His shot was wide.
“Never going to score with a shot like that!”
Michael slumped back to the end of the line as Josh started forward for his turn, but partway toward the net Josh went down on the ice. Jeers from their teammates bounced off the hard cold ice and into their tender hearts. Regular stuff.
The scoreboard showed twenty two seconds left in the game. Michael’s team was tied. Bryson, their best player, had just scored the tying goal and been injured as he slammed into the post. The flu had hit their team badly and the bench was short.
Coach Bresky looked over the bench and before they knew what happened Joshua and Michael were on the ice together. They could hear the groans of their teammates.
But suddenly they were silent. Michael looked back and saw Coach Bresky with eyes like steel glaring at the team. Then the coach looked over at Michael. His brown eyes softened and he gestured upward, and then smiled. Michael stilled his body.
Should I pray? I mean mom said hockey …
The puck was about to drop and for a split second Michael looked over to Joshua. The glance that came back showed Michael just how nervous his friend was feeling. The red face, the strain in his eyes … Michael was sure his own face reflected the same fear.
And then … time stood still …
Hi God … this is Michael … I know you are way bigger than this hockey game … I love that about you … but right now I’m in a mess. Josh and me… we NEVER score … and that’s okay … but if it is okay with you could we please help our team today … if that isn’t okay … well please help us with the team after … and God … thanks for listening.
For a split second Michael thought that was probably the stupidest sounding prayer he had ever done. But somehow he felt better.
The puck dropped.
Michael and Joshua skated for all they were worth. Suddenly the puck was on Michael’s stick. He looked around and saw Sammy who was a really good player to his left.
Then the rest of the conversation took over …
Pass it to Joshua.
Without hesitation Michael shot the puck right onto the stick of his friend. An immediate hush followed by whoops of cheering and the whole team was over the boards and tackling the boys as the final buzzer sounded.
Time moves on. Buzzers go silent. Friends lose touch.
Michael eventually hung up his skates but he never hung up his prayer life. Score!