NZ Soccer has started a new magazine. It is called Goal! It is pitched at girls and boys. 12 glossy pages. Plenty of colour and images. No more than a few lines of words at any one time. Cartoon characters Zac and Lisa adorn almost every page. There are interactive quizzes and crosswords and 'spot the difference' exercises.
It is an impressive effort from the marketing department. They have done their homework. Everything in this magazine is designed to inspire kids to play soccer.
But I'd trade in all that inspiration for a single moment of aspiration. Hard up against the left hand margin on page 8 is a tiny photo of a little boy controlling a soccer ball. It could be any boy. But it isn't any boy. It is Ronaldinho, arguably the greatest player on the planet over the past decade. What is he doing there? The text nearby says it well: "Just imagine - if you keep on practicing hard you might be able to be as good as Ronaldinho."
This is more than inspiration. This is aspiration. Something is going on in that photo that goes far beyond the other 11.95 pages. Kids look at that photo and say 'this could be me'. His example seems so follow-able. If NZ Soccer succeeds in this new venture it will have less to do with gloss and cartoons and interactivity and spin and more to do with creating a voice in the hearts of children that says "I could be the next Ronaldinho." That photo achieves that goal.
I wonder if our world is afflicted with too much inspiration and too little aspiration. People are over-inspired. Like balloons we are constantly being pumped-up. We are bombarded with people all too ready to move us in some direction. What we need is more aspiration. More people whose character we admire so much that we want to be like them. More people who have gone up ahead of us and given us a target at which to aim.
I find Jesus to be an aspirational figure long before he is an inspirational one. He draws people to follow him. His Spirit goes to work to make people like him. It is called discipleship. The genius of discipleship is that it plays on our aspirations. And how can we become aspirational to others? I think the Apostle Paul was onto it ... when he said "follow me as I follow Christ." That is a difficult thing for us to say! Maybe we can just focus quietly on living it?