Several years ago, one of my children and I were like oil and water. He wanted to go in one direction; I wanted him to go in another. We were frequently at odds with one another and seemed to have nothing in common except that we both liked oldies music. He wanted nothing to do with church, and his behavior was very troubling. He loved football; I didn’t understand why anyone liked it.
Knowing that there were precious few years left at home and not wanting him to have nothing but bad memories of his mom, I started attending his high school football games and attempted to understand the game (why are there so many rules?) so that I could have conversations with him. I was not allowed to cheer for him at all during the games, but that was okay – he allowed me to attend, even if only to take pictures of the game for him, and I would take any connection I could get. I tried reading through a football rule book, and at his games I stood next to someone who knew the rules back and forth and had her explain them to me. (Note: I still don’t understand 90% of the game, but that’s okay.)
And I prayed for him, daily, and vowed that I would never, ever, ever give up on him.
During the “big game” in 2017, when the New England Patriots were down 28-3 in the third quarter, I watched the game and was seriously concerned about how he would take the Patriots’ impending loss. He was visiting his brother at school at the time, and I texted furiously with his brother asking how he was doing. He hadn’t given up hope, and I found that I was genuinely excited over the amazing comeback that day.
Fast forward a few years. He is now walking with God and is growing stronger in his faith everyday. Although he is 1,100 miles away and we have far more in common now than a few years ago, do you know what I still do? I subscribe to a daily sports e-newsletter and I still keep up with football games. I know who his favorite players are, and what teams they are on. While my original “interest” in football was solely to have some sort of connection with him, I have found that I can now converse with others about football (a little) and that I genuinely do care which teams win.
In the book of 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, the apostle Paul says, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
Without sinning in any way, Paul tried to find commonalities with people he met, in order to make connections and show them the love of Christ.
I pursued a commonality around football so that I could continue to have a relationship with my child, who is now also a child of God.
Is there someone God is nudging you to build a common interest with, even if the topic is outside your comfort zone? As long as there is nothing sinful in it, start sharing an interest in these things, even if it’s hard at first. You may find that your common interest – even if a bit forced at first – becomes an actual interest, and that you can use the opportunity to share the gospel as you live it out in your life.
(Note: my child has read and has approved of me writing about him)