February 10, 2010

Football and The Art of Redemption

Watching the Super Bowl this year made me do a little bit of reflecting. You see, I'm really not the sports type most of the time- and for good reason.

People are gifted in many ways. Athletic ability was not one of the blessings I received when God decided to put me on the earth. I was awkward, shy, shorter than anyone should ever be, and rather uninterested in things in which I would not excel. This meant anything with a ball was a game untouched. I ended up being the brunt of a lot of jokes. I despised physical education class and being humilated on the fields and the courts- and that was only when the choosing up of teams took place!

Instead I excelled in art, loved music, history and English. Travel fascinated me. Loved the beach and bodysurfing. I enjoyed my solitude- and pretty much wrote off the rest of my world. Disneyland seemed to be the culmination of everything I loved. I was hooked from my first visit.

At the beginning of middle school, I made a pretty good friend who happened to love basketball. He was a good guy, and my interest in basketball grew. I wasn't half bad, but I wasn't good at it either! Unfortunately, when we entered high school, my good friend decided popularity was more important- and this geeky kid was dropped like the proverbial hot potato.

I was mad, hurt, and determined this would never happen again. I chose to hate any kind of sports from that day forward and anyone who loved them- especially if they were good at it. Bad decision. That kind of hatred, judgment, and positioning sets into place bitter roots which grab a person by the neck and eventually limit them. It happened to me, and I didn't even recognize it.

Years later, many years after I decided to become a Jesus follower, I met a guy at church that I hit it off with. He was pretty funny, kind, and had a deep passion for God. Problem was, he was a stinking jock- an ex college football player. I really wanted to not like him as he intimidated me and unintentionally dialed up all my old insecurities. Instead, I decided to look past my insecurities and false judgments.

Over time, our friendship grew. One day over lunch, I let the truth out. I told him I had not only misjudged him, but I had also made a wholesale decision against guys like him. This would be called "discrimination" if we were talking about age, sex, religion, or race. Then I bit the bullet harder as I felt God nudge me- and I asked him to forgive me. He did. Even better, he asked my forgiveness on behalf of the guys that had wounded me.  

I was embarrassed and ashamed, but I was free. Amazing what God can do when He chooses to step in as we ask for forgiveness and are honest about our wounds. It's never been the same since.

So, this past Sunday was a celebration of sorts. Not just for New Orleans and the Saints, but for this ordinary and awkward man. One who now even enjoys team sports- at least once a year!

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