At a junior high girls’ basketball game, one of the parents in our eighth-grade fan section screamed at the referee and felt immediate remorse. “Time for a sucker!” she said. She popped it in her mouth and made a deliberate choice about who was going to officiate this game. And it wasn’t her!
Her choice stuck with me. Because no matter your take on the call or circumstances of the game, it is the referee who rules. That’s true on the basketball court, truer still in our hearts. No matter the circumstances of our lives, it is the referee within who rules.
Take Leah for example. She had a husband and children, yet the names she gave her babies blew the whistle on what was ruling her heart. She named her first son Reuben (meaning, “See, a son.”). “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now,” (Genesis 29:32). But Jacob didn’t love Leah. He only had eyes for her sister Rachel.
Leah named her second son Simeon (sounds like the Hebrew word for “heard”). “Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one, too,” (Genesis 29:33). Yet Jacob didn’t love her.
The third son she named Levi (like the Hebrew word for “attached”). “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons,” (Genesis 29:34). Still Jacob didn’t love her.
The things that ruled Leah’s heart had names: Unloved. Unwanted. Not enough.
And I wonder what we allow to referee and rule our hearts? Anxiety? Hopelessness? Fatigue? Fear? What fills our thoughts at the beginning of a new year when things aren’t going the way we thought or planned?
The Apostle Paul tells us to let peace rule. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” In the Greek, the word peace means umpire or referee. It’s a decision that no matter what happens around us or to us, the peace of Christ will rule within us.
We’ve seen players benched and ejected from the game. What if we started ejecting the referees of the heart that don’t make for peace? We eject anxiety when we cast our cares on Jesus (1 Peter 5:7). We eject hopelessness and fatigue when we put our hope in the Lord who renews our strength (Isaiah 40:31). We eject fear by turning to Jesus who said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid,” (John 14:27).
Like my bleacher buddy, we must recognize what’s taking place within and then yield our heart to the true referee, Jesus. That’s too hard to do alone. Turn to Jesus. Read his Word. Buy a bag of suckers and go talk to a friend who models a life refereed by the peace of God.
Though Scripture doesn’t tell us how Leah ejected the referees Unloved and Unwanted from her heart, it’s clear that she did just that. Somewhere between the birth of sons three and four, something changed within her. And we see it in her fourth son’s name. Leah named him Judah (sounds like the Hebrew word for “praise”). She said, “This time I will praise the LORD,” (Genesis 29:35).
This time praise ruled over pout. This time worship refereed over whine. This time she blew the whistle on the referees of control, security, and affirmation, and her heart was ruled by a desire for God alone. And it’s from the line of Judah that Jesus the Prince of Peace descended!