Sunday, September 4, 2011

On Bleeding Red

It’s Saturday morning, the first in September to be precise. I walk out the front door, colliding with the aroma of anticipation in the air. I couldn’t help but convince myself—I could actually smell it. As I stumble into Walmart in the early hours of daylight, I am greeted by a sea of red—and white. Yes, it is game day.

Oh how I love living in the South for these very moments—can you say Southern Pride? The entire town changes on this glorious day, as if it were a calendar holiday every other weekend. Life just stops. By 9am, the fans are already pouring in from who knows where—everywhere I suppose.

I breathe deep, sucking up this last stretch of hot summer air—you know, the kind that melts the makeup right off your face and sends droplets of water streaming down your back. It is going to be a hot one. But these fans stop at nothing—a little sweat might even amplify the razorback fever that spreads across this city as the hour grows closer to reaching the six.

The tents are up days before, the moms busy cooking early in the week. Hundreds and thousands begin pouring onto campus—an eruption of red unlike anything I have seen before. It is the one day where eating beyond your capacity and drinking before noon is not only normal—but part of the experience. More and more begin to pile in. The gates finally open and the mad rush commences.

Me and my Sweet roomie and friend, Ashley

We begin to pack in. Within minutes I really can’t tell if the sweat dripping down my arm belongs to me or the guy sitting beside me. But nobody is thinking about it, so I try to stop thinking too. No one cares about bodily fluids—they only bleed red. These fans are CRAZY about their hogs—and calling them—often, might I add.

After nine months of sweating in anticipation, the arrival of new life hits the field running. The shouts and screams echo from the east to the west—a new season has begun. Watching the wide eyes and mysterious grins in the new faces brought laughter to my heart, remembering all too well my own initiation just one year prior. Oh the joy of catching the fever for the very first time.

As I was standing in that moment, with the thousands upon thousands of fans, drenched in sweat, exhausted from a long day, linking arms with strangers as we sent hymns of years past into the air in unison, raising holy hands to praise this holy game and all it entails, it hit me—

Razorback football is not merely a game with a ball and boys to chase it—it is a lifestyle, a big family who gather together regularly in these short months each year to sweat and freeze, to shout words passed down from generation to generation, to feel the inexpressible joy of hugging the random guy behind you in celebration of that little brown ball sliding gently through those two coveted poles.

To wear a red shirt and put a big ole flower in your curls—to come to a place where suddenly differences seem so far and unity under the red blood comforts the soul. How ironic—that game day involves raising holy hands in worship of this little brown ball in all of its significance, clothing ourselves in red and white, placing hands on one-another’s shoulders as we sway to the echoes of thousands of tongues crying out in unison, and the meaning of it all—finding our comfort and unity as a family through the tinge of bleeding red.

Tonight I saw thousands of fans sold out for this game, covered by a red shirt but completely missing the joy of experiencing coverage of the only red that purifies the heart and soul. So many eyes blinded by the comforting aroma of it all—mine included. Oh Lord, forgive me. May nothing smell sweeter to me then You. Teach me to love well, to live in the moment, to absorb these sweet moments of life in the South—but never allow me to forget, not even for a second, whose red blood covers my life—and from whom my joy and comfort come, both in and out of season. Oh, Lord show me to seek refuge in your grace, that I may boast not in y own doing but simply in your Holy name.

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”   -Hebrews 19-23

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