She was on the drill team and worked in the library to pay her tuition. He was on a football scholarship. These small town/farm kids met at Navarro Junior College in Corsicana, Texas in 1955, fell in love and got married two years later. From their love, came my sister and me and so Navarro Junior College holds a special place in our hearts. I was stunned to learn that a Netflix docuseries has recently been made about the cheerleading squad at Navarro.
The coach in the series (Cheer) is a tough as nails yet tenderly compassionate woman named Monica. Her values are old school and conservative and she allows her students no second chances. One of her cheerleaders is a former drug abuser. Another was orphaned when his poverty stricken mother died of cancer. Some have suffered persecution because of sexual orientation. Monica demands that they keep up their grades, work hard as a team, be on time, and reach their potential. She also advocates fiercely for them to be treated fairly, going out of her way to help a cheerleader whose nude photos have appeared illegally online. She claims this rag tag group of variously troubled junior college students as if they were her own kids. “I want them to know they are loved for exactly who they are and that they should love themselves, you know.” Monica told a reporter recently.
Her fierce love reminds me of the character of love we read about on countless pages of the Bible. One of the most vivid distillations of love comes from Deuteronomy 6. We are instructed, we are coached, to “love God with all our heart, soul and mind.” But first we are told that God has claimed us as God’s very own kids: “Hear O Israel, The Lord is our God, the Lord alone” Once we hear the good news that God has claimed us, once we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves us for exactly who we are, then something shifts within us. The command to love back feels less like a command, and more like a natural response. Loving God is less of a chore than a gift.
I had planned to preach on God’s love — a gift we give and receive — this last Sunday before I got the flu. Thanks to Mike for filling in last minute. This week we will pick upon the rest of that sermon series “Significant Others” as we explore the gift and challenge of loving ourselves, our friends and family and even strangers.
Peace and grace,