He stood on the concrete floor, staring into the store. At times he shifted his gaze as he paced in front of the glass windows. The pattern broke as he occasionally looked over his right shoulder, then his left as shoppers passed by behind him.
The ritual went on for a while as I watched from a nearby bench. Eugene and I were walking the dry confines of the mall when I noticed the man. Eugene had gone to use the facilities-and snag a sample from Sees candy.
Although I was intrigued by the man’s movements, it took me a while to notice what he was wearing. It was a long-sleeved sports jersey, Navy in color. The number on the back was outlined in neon green. It was the color scheme of the Seattle Seahawks. Above the number was the “name.” It read “FAN.” Suddenly, I realized what was catching his eye inside the store. There was a TV and it was broadcasting the Seahawks-Dallas Cowboys playoff game. (The Seahawks lost).
My mind immediately went back to the first chapter of “Not A Fan,” where author Kyle Idleman was using the analogy of sports fans to describe Christians who were not yet Christ-followers. He defines a fan as an enthusiastic admirer:
“It’s the guy who goes to the football game with no shirt and a painted chest. He sits in the stands and cheers for his team. He’s got a signed jersey hanging on his wall at home and multiple bumper stickers on the back of his car. But he’s never in the game. He never breaks a sweat or takes a hard hit in the open field. He knows all about the players and can rattle off their latest stats, but he doesn’t know the players. He yells and cheers, but nothing is really required of him. There is no sacrifice he has to make.” (page 24)
As I watched this guy, it occurred to me that he was caught in a neutral zone (yes, pun intended!), a small, mostly undefined transition between the mall corridor and the store interior. He never stepped inside to involve himself in the action on the sales floor. And, as he meandered just beyond the store windows, he never really interacted with the passing shoppers. He was never invested in either environment.
It was apparent by the way he looked around that he was waiting for someone. I couldn’t help but wonder what type of relationship he removed himself from to watch the gridiron action that was taking place hundreds of miles away. My thoughts were not judgmental as I, too, had once been an avid Padres fan. I could name all the players on all of the teams and their stats. I could debate strategy just as passionately as the next Super Fan. But, I admit, I now see a certain sadness when fandom impedes following.
The Bible is clear. He’s called each of us to the sacrificing lifestyle of following, which comes at a much steeper cost than cheerleading. Are you ready to move from the stands to the field?