I don't like third umpires

I’ve been keeping an eye on the Ashes test this morning, watching Australia take on England in that most time honoured cricketing contest.

Apparently it’s been a while since I watched cricket, because I discovered that the “third umpire” has been introduced to cricket. Each team has the opportunity to object to an umpires decision and ask for it to be reviewed.  The system allows each team two unsuccesful challenges each innings (and presumably an unlimited number of successful challenges).

At face value, it seems reasonable.  We have the technology, and it only holds the game up for a little while, so why not? “Third umpires” and the capacity to challenge have been succesfully introduced in other sports – tennis and rugby league to name a couple, so why not cricket?

Because life isn’t perfect.

We all make mistakes.

Part of the challenge facing us is how we cope in our humanity, how we give expression to our emotions when life doesn’t go as planned.

The ‘third umpire’ sets an impossible standard of perfection, and sets up expectations of sporting officials that cannot possibly be lived up to.  It effectively says to the sports officials “we don’t trust you”.

Life is imperfect, and messy.

Sport is too.  And as a reflection of life, that’s just the way it should be.

Knowing the ending

I read a book last week.  It happens occasionally.

It wasn’t the latest literary classic, or a leadership text. It wasn’t even theology.

It was, how shall we put this, airport fiction. Clive Cussler.  Adventures. Craziness. Action.

I like reading Cussler’s stories when I’m after a bit of escapism.  They are non stop adventure romps. This particular book featured a husband and wife treasure hunting team who lurched from adventure to adventure, taking on and single handedly defeating the bad guys, finding the treasure and saving the world.

All good.  Right?

Somewhere along the way, I found myself getting annoyed at the book.  I was frustrated at the predictability of it all. No matter what the odds, no matter what the obstacles, the hero couple always prevailed, always found the hidden clue no-one else could see, saw off trained commandos with a piece of rusty steel and some basic physics…..and so on…..endlessly.

Now I knew full well what I was getting into when I opened the book. Cussler books definitely follow a fairly standard format, so I wasn’t surprised.

But still, I was annoyed.

Where was the reality?  The obstacles that sometimes are insurmountable? The good guys that sometimes can’t defeat the bad guys?  I found myself just wanting a little more rawness, a little more “real-ness” in the story.

And somewhere along the way I got to thinking a bit about church worship services (no, I don’t know why my mind makes these strange leaps either).  I got to thinking about how so often our church services follow predictable plotlines, where the good guys always triumph, where we are always able to “praise God”.

Sometimes in church, as in Cussler, I wish for a little more rawness, a little more real-ness.    Sometimes we should spend a little more time crying out to God about the awfulness, and a little less pretending we’re full of praise and worship.

Sometimes life just sucks, and church is one place we shouldn’t be afraid to name that reality.

Even if Cussler doesn’t.