After Argentina pasted the USA in the Copa America Cup's semifinal match on Tuesday night, I was not thinking of Lionel Messi's play as merely "human."
Quite the opposite.
He was brilliant. Spectacular. Artistic. Magical. Even superhuman.
But Sunday night on the pitch in the Copa America finals against Chile, he was average. No goals. A missed penalty kick that sailed over the crossbar. And for the fourth straight time in international competition, a Messi-led Argentinian team lost in a final.
Even the best experience dismay
Ok, even the best in the world have a bad night, right?
But there was much more stirring below the surface after this bad night.
After the match he announced his retirement from Argentine National Team play at the age of 29-years-old. Apparently, the best in the world will not play for Argentina in the 2018 World Cup.
There was pain and disappointment in his voice as he made the announcement.
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"I tried my hardest. It's been four finals, and I was not able to win. I tried everything possible. It hurts me more than anyone, but it is evident that this is not for me. I want more than anyone to win a title with the national team, but unfortunately, it did not happen."
After the match, Messi got "human."
He was real, weak, and earthy, showing his limits and struggling with disappointment and discouragement. But he let me and the rest of the world in on his life, and he conceded a word that I could not imagine was a part of his vocabulary—quit.
As much as I marvel at Messi's skill and artistry as a soccer player, I am drawn to him in his humanness. As Messi got messy, I found myself feeling compassion for him.
And for his humanness, I admire Messi.
The value of being human
So, why has this caught my attention?
Because at times I want to quit as well. I want to quit on relationships. I want to quit on the mission. I want to quit on character. I want to quit on many things.
But a moment like Messi’s admission Sunday night gives me the green light to quit having it all together. I derive new energy when I stop needing all the answers, when I relieve myself of always bringing my A-game and managing what other people think of me.
Today, I think more highly of Messi because he quit.
I have been a follower of Jesus for almost 40 years. Finally, after all these years, I am just now getting to the point where I am feeling more comfortable with my own humanness.
My humanness—expressed in things other than the desire to quit, like doubt, failure, sin, anger, conflict, pain, misunderstanding, guilt, sadness and brokenness—is the best place for God's divine work of grace, healing, and hope to show His awesome power and holiness as He conforms me to the image of Jesus.
Author Eugene Peterson calls this “earthy spirituality.” Earthy is a down-to-earth, real, authentic way of dealing with the chaos and pitfalls of life. Spirituality is a life moved by the Spirit of God and therefore alive to God.
It's the gospel on display in earthy, human living.
To Lionel Messi: “You strike me as real, authentic and alive. Thank you for allowing us in the ‘messiness’ of your life. And I hope you reconsider your retirement!”