A friend has started doing Five Minute Friday blogs – you write for five minutes to see what comes out. I haven’t posted here for a while so here’s my offering for the week.
In the immediate aftermath of Chelsea’s victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final last week, iconic striker Didier Drogba said this to an ITV interviewer:
I believe a lot in destiny. I pray a lot. It was written a long time ago. God is wonderful. This team is amazing. I want to dedicate this Cup to all our managers and players before. It [the goal] changed the game mentally. I’m very happy. Life is fantastic.
You will remember that Chelsea did not win the cup by dominating or playing the best football. They were 3-1 down against Napoli at the end of the first leg of the quarter final. They then stifled Barcelona in the semis, defending heroically but never getting their own rhythm or pattern going. And in the final they were second best on possession, chances created and entertainment. But somehow more stoic defending, closing down, hassling, and a little bit of luck, took them through extra time to penalties where they won – Drogba scoring the winning goal.
Given that extraordinay turnaround since the 3-1 first leg defeat to Napoli, and overcoming two excellent teams in the semis and final, it is unsurprising that people started to say ‘your name is on the cup’ or ‘it must have been destiny’. There was a lot of dodgy theology in the aftermath to that match.
But Drogba’s quote, made in the midst of euphoria, does not stack up to the God that I believe in. I can forgive him, as he is a footballer not a theologian and he is expressing his thanks and praise to God for what is the pinnacle of his career. Nevertheless, the quote indicates that you pray, and God grants. That your future is already mapped out or ‘written in the stars’. That we do not have much to do with what happens – it is all preordained. He is not a God of destiny.
I don’t believe in a God like that. I believe in a God that is sovereign (in charge) and omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscience (all-knowing) but does not push us down paths that we don’t want to go. Success and failure, health and suffering seem somewhat arbitrary. Look at Job. What I believe is that God guides us in particular directions, and knows what we are going to choose, but does not force in any particular way. A God who responds to prayer requests with ‘no’ and ‘wait’ as well as ‘yes’. He is a God that in the suffering, failure, despair can be just as present, if not more so, than at times of success. This God is more full of grace, as he doesn’t rely on a meritocracy and doesn’t need to be bribed with prayers before acting. He is present and available whatever the situation.
I’m happy for Drogba, although it has taken me a few weeks to get to this point as I’m really not a fan of Chelsea. And I hope that he can articulate faith in his God when things are going as badly as well as at times like this.
STOP. Oh dear, that took 13 minutes. Must try harder.