Photo screen grab from Twitter @Sportsnet.
Being a backup can be a tough position. Though you’re not in the game, you still have to prepare as if you could be. It’s as much a mental challenge as a physical one.
On Saturday night in Toronto, David Ayers and his wife stood in the standing-room-only section of Scotiabank Arena, home of the Maple Leafs. In the NHL, teams typically only have two goalies on the team. In the unlikely case both of them get hurt in a game, the home team is required to have an emergency goalie on-hand who can play for either franchise if needed.
Typically, those goalies are former college players or guys who can do pretty well in a rec league. A sometime-Zamboni driver and practice goalie, Ayers actually thought his chances of ever seeing live action in a game ended five years ago after a kidney transplant. His current role in practice kept him close to the game he loves, but he doubted he’d actually get on the ice.
Then the visiting Carolina Hurricanes’ goalie went down with an injury. Ayers received a call to get his gear on just in case. Then the other goalie got hurt. Ayers was going in.
Although he had been on that ice before, nothing could have prepared him for that situation. “The crowd’s there and the place is lit up and they drop the puck,” he said. “The players are going so much faster in the game than they were going in practice. … The look of the game when you’re standing on the ice is totally different than when you’re in the building.”
Nervous jitters led to two quick goals. Then, Ayers settled down and remembered to have fun. He ended up stopping eight of 10 shots to become the oldest goalie, at 42, to win his professional debut.
The Bible preaches preparation as well. In 1 Timothy 4:2 we’re told to be prepared in season and out of season. Preparation for something we see on the calendar is a lot easier than the test we never see coming. In the latter case, we learn a lot about ourselves and how we respond.
When there were only 11 apostles at the beginning of Acts, someone had to be chosen to replace Judas. Someone else had to step in and step up. Two final candidates emerged, with that replacement being a believer named Matthias.
Matthias isn’t mentioned any more in the New Testament. Since he met the requirements Peter established for replacing Judas, we know he had followed Jesus since his baptism by John and witnessed Christ’s ascension into Heaven. Many believe him to have been among the 72 sent out by Jesus in Luke 10.
Because his name is another form of “Matthew,” history suggests he and the other apostle by that name were sometimes mixed up by people. Speculation on where he went as a missionary run from him staying in Jerusalem to witnessing to cannibals in the modern-day country of Georgia. His death is just as disputed. According to the source, Matthias could have been stoned to death by the cannibals, stoned by Jews in Jerusalem and then beheaded, or died of old age in Jerusalem.
But whatever the case, it appears Matthias stepped into his role honorably. He was ready for when the call came.
Our own opportunities for sharing the Gospel don’t often announce themselves beforehand. They occur when we can tell something’s wrong with a friend or co-worker. Some call that a hunch or feeling; we call it being prompted by the Holy Spirit.
The challenge for believers is mentally but also spiritually. We’re to be active in practices such as prayer and Bible study, but also dependent on how God leads us in that preparation and directs us.
And just like it did for Ayers, the situations where we’re called to step in may not look exactly the way we pictured. There will probably be some nervous jitters at first.
But then we settle in. We don’t see the obstacles so much. We do the mission God has placed in front of us.
Scott Barkley serves as editor of The Christian Index.