There’s a penalty in football called a false start. The basic premise is that it is illegal for someone on the team with the ball to start the play before all the others. So after they all line up and get ready, someone moves before the ball is snapped and the whole play has to be stopped and the offensive team is penalized 5 yards. It’s one of the only times in life I can think of that someone gets in trouble for being early.
Sometimes in life we experience false starts. We think something is happening or imminent and we get ahead of ourselves and it costs us all sorts of time, money, energy or dignity. Maybe you assumed you were getting a promotion and it never happened. Perhaps you thought a relationship was headed for marriage, and instead it ended with a nasty break-up. Sometimes you’re decorating and living in your new house before the offer has been accepted or the papers signed. Whatever the case, false starts in life can be frustrating, embarrassing, and sometimes costly. They can also serve a much more fruitful purpose.
Earlier this week, I experienced a false start in life. Emily and I went to the hospital, sure that the time had come to welcome our second child into our lives. We packed up the bags, sent Zeke to grandma and grandpa’s, and headed in. I was excited to find out if it was a boy or girl, names were dancing through my head, and I was having visions of holding my new son or daughter and introducing them to their big brother. It was all going to be so much fun. Except it never happened.
Turns out that God is still the one in control of this planet, and the whole babies being born thing is still quite the miracle. It wasn’t time. He/she wasn’t ready, needed more alone time with mom I guess. And so we went home with no baby, and a little disappointed.
But then yesterday happened. A lovely afternoon with my wife watching shows while Zeke napped. A night spent with my son playing ‘American Ninja Warrior’, soccer, and hockey in the basement. A wonderful reminder of all that I already have, and that even though I was concentrating on what I didn’t have yet, what I did have was more than enough.
When a football team is penalized for the false start, it enrages the coach, and embarrasses the player. But it also makes it more spectacular when the team regains the extra five yards and gets the first down. Our baby will come. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week – and when it does I will still experience all those wonderful things – in their own way, and in their own time. But until then, I am giving thanks for the false starts in life, no matter how hard they might seem in the moment, because the moments that follow are sometimes made even more special because they did.