There are people who understand the point of sports and those who do not. I’m of the former. I do not judge the latter (different strokes for different folks, I say), but I will tell you what that point is.
It’s the human drama on display in every game. The sacrifice. The hopes and the doubts. Historic success and equally historic failure. That’s sports.
Last Sunday was a case in point. And an important one too, so if you happen to be someone who isn’t interested in football, I’ll ask that you just hang in there and hear me out.
It was the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Buffalo Bills. Overtime. As the Steelers are one of the best teams in the league and the Bills one of the worst, a win by Buffalo would take much of the sting out of a disappointing season. The Bills had the ball and a chance to win the game, and then this happened:
The dejected fellow who almost but didn’t end that game is Steve Johnson. Just a kid in the third season of his pro career who dreams what just about every red-blooded American male dreams—making a game-winning catch in front of the home crowd.
And he didn’t. He failed.
The story doesn’t end there, though. After the game, Steve Johnson decided to air his disappointment for all to see. He took to Twitter and called out God:
I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS IS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! I’LL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! Thx Tho…
I watched this story on the news Sunday night from my living room sofa. The kids were asleep, the Christmas tree was up, the house was quiet. There’s a peace to this time of year that can envelope you and dull the sharp edges around your life. As I sat there and saw that tweet (followed by four replays of his missed catch from three different camera angles), I was reminded of the sharp edges I carry in my own life.
No one should blame him for being mad at God. I think we’ve all shaken our fist at heaven at some point. I know I have repeatedly. I doubt I’d ever display that anger to anyone—much less on Twitter—but I understand. I know how he feels. I’ve said the same exact words to God.
And though I’d never presume to speak for God, I can tell Steve Johnson what He’s told me over the years.
I’ve said, I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!!
And God said, “Wonderful!”
Wonderful? But I praise you AND THIS IS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!!
“Yes, sometimes. Hard times have to come to every person, whether they love Me or not. And sometimes it’s the ones who love Me who suffer more. That doesn’t seem fair or right, and that’s okay. I understand. You just have to trust Me. Trust is the most important thing. But sometimes those hard times are your own doing. You realize that, right? You’re free. Free to believe and think and do and try as you see best. So sometimes when that ball is dropped, it’s you who missed it and not Me who made you.”
But YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS???
“Absolutely, and you will in time.”
“Time. Time is the big secret. You have to wait. That goes along with the trust. Patience and trust are the means by which I move you from one blessing to another.”
But I’LL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!!
“Wonderful! I hope you won’t. Often I’ll allow you to fail because I know that’s how you’ll learn best. Isn’t that how it’s always been in your life? It’s your failures that have led to your success?”
“You’re welcome. And it’s okay if that thanks is weak. I understand that, too. Just hang in there. Lean on Me. You’re stronger than you think and wiser than you know.”
That’s the way that sort of conversation has played out in my life, at least. And I’m sure it’s much the same as the ones you’ve had with God. Me, I’ll sing the praises of what Steve Johnson did. You always hear sports stars talk about God after the big game has been won. It’s nice to hear a little about Him when the big game has been lost.
Steve Johnson will get up and move on. There will be other big passes in other big games. He’ll catch some of those. He’ll miss some, too.
And that’s okay. It’s all about trust and patience.
We all drop the ball sometimes.