August marks a momentous occasion in the Malvaez household. America gives Bobby and me the best birthday gift every year as football returns to college campuses and professional stadiums around the country.
Of course, we’re mostly concerned with the University of Houston Cougars. Throughout the summer, we coordinate with our friends which games we’ll meet up for in Houston and which games we’ll travel to. Facebook events are created to plan tailgates, and statistics on players are traded back and forth in group messages. There’s excitement in the air and we can’t wait for another season full of the inevitable ups, downs, and rivalries.
In August 2009, two weeks before my junior year of college began, I had a serious chat with God about the quality of my existing friendships at school. Frustrated with the flaky behavior and the poor life choices they were making, I so desperately wanted a change. By the end of our talk, I decided to cut off all but one of my friends and leave them and their bad influences behind. New school year, new me!
To stave off loneliness, I thought of my interests and researched the student groups at school, including Coog Crew, the official student spirit organization for the University of Houston Athletics Department. I sent a Facebook message to the new member officer, and he sent me the information I needed to attend the first meeting of the year.
Fast forward four years, more 55 football games — and seven road trips — he and I got married just a few yards away from the football stadium where we fell in love.
Intentionally seeking out community can be radically life-changing. Walking into a room full of people and introducing myself to everyone I could was extremely difficult for me. The anxiety of saying the wrong thing, messing up a handshake, or spilling lemonade down my shirt gripped my chest. I can still remember telling God that if this didn’t pay off, I was never leaving my house again.
Staying as long as I could, I eventually introduced myself to the leadership of Coog Crew, including my future husband. They invited me out to go bowling with them the next day.
Over the course of the last eight years of our friendship, we have stood up at weddings, moved countless apartments, eaten an elephant’s weight in homemade queso — and done life together. To say it paid off is an understatement.
This kind of intentionality takes commitment. That same commitment is the kind that we ask of each other in this congregation. We all walk into church with an agenda, but have you ever stopped to think what yours is?
Why do you come to church? And why Plymouth Park? More than ever, people are searching for a place to belong. Each time you gather at church, for whatever activity, are you making the conscious decision to shape your words and actions in order to create belonging?
Living life intentionally means each day begins with a commitment to something. As Christians, our commitment, our intention is to know Christ and to make Christ known. Where Christ is known, so is acceptance, belonging, kindness, and love.
When we live with this intention and make this commitment to each other, we put others at the center of our focus. We remove ourselves as the primary motivator of our actions, as Christ did, and we create newness.
And just like Tony Romo, we don’t go out onto that field alone. By committing to our congregation, promising to think of our teammates, we create a community that God cheers on to victory.