Recognizing Christ

Clemson’s head football coach, Dabo Swinney, spoke to reporters recently about Clemson’s new 5-star wide receiver signee from California, saying, “He’s got an amazing mind and leadership abilities. I mean, he is an incredibly well-rounded young person that I think will impact our community and impact a lot of people’s lives through the platform of college football.

Dabo, most beloved inspirational speaker, leads his coaching staff not to teach football as much as to teach young men to be fully human, through the platform of college football:  to recognize that Christ resides within each one of them, that there are certain ways of living that nurture and align with that Christ presence, and that every moment in life involves a choice. Every decision, every play in every game, every interaction with teammates, family, coaches, agents, fans, cafeteria workers, and grieving parents, will either reveal more of that Christ presence to the world…or it will cover it over with confusion and obscuring crust. Dabo is plugged in to Christ…and so are his coaches and staff. So are the student athletes. The athletic director gets it. The fan base gets it. The community gets it. The code name sometimes used for it is “Clemson Culture.” Now, others want it, too.

Nick Saban sometimes uses the words Dabo uses and wants what Dabo’s got. When Saban figures out how to get plugged in so that those words have meaning, he may make the rights choices and then…look out, because there are other coaches and programs out there who also get it. Clemson Football is currently at the top, so the time and energy are perfect for this awareness to spread like…well…Spirit.

Dabo is not alone in his awareness of Christ. But his awareness of how college athletics is a perfect “platform” for revealing Christ is brilliant. Also, Dabo seems to have dedicated his life to this. He has a dream. He sees where this could lead. Clemson Culture is not about spreading a religion; it’s about recognizing that Christ is the manifestation of God that resides in every human whether they realize it or not. The first step is accepting it…being open to the truth of it. The second step is seeing it…recognizing Christ within yourself and others. Then you build on what you find through the choices you make. Dabo and his team (and everyone else in the world) call this “Love.”

So, when Dabo and Dexter and Christian and Deshaun and DeAndre and Trevor and Hunter and Travis and Tee and Lyn J and all of them talk about “Love,” they are talking about the deepest, strongest, most everlasting POWER there is. Clemson is revealing Christ through the mechanism of college football and this is an ingenious way for Christ to be revealed and grow in the world.

Why football?  Why not?  It has everything in place to help it happen: close coaching; fanbase support; struggle; challenge; and competition. Student athleticism offers opportunities to perfect skills and to wrestle with the temptation to get lost in pride and resentment. There are myriad opportunities to practice making the right choices…and to feel the resulting power of love…to recognize the presence of Christ in themselves and how it connects them to others.

Sound crazy? Any crazier than having the One who taught us all about this, be born in a cow shed while his parents were on a road trip?

Will Clemson win? They already have. Go TIGERS.

(The image at the top belongs to the New York Times.  I’ll return it if they need it back.)

 

Advertisements

Our Hope is Built on Nothing Less…

…than being Fully Human.

  • Fully cognizant of God’s ever-presence
  • Fully connected to each other and all of life…in love
  • Fully engaged in the battles and brawls that strengthen us and teach us everyday, but . . .
  • Especially in these focused, dedicated events to demonstrate our resolve and our purity of heart.

Go TIGERS!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Blind Spot

Last night during Clemson’s heartbreaking loss to Alabama, Jesus reminded me that His followers are not the winners of the world.  I railed against that and then was convinced to own the truth of it.  My need for Clemson to be victorious has been my one blind spot in my personal crusade to rid myself of attachments and identifications and to complete my journey as a follower of Jesus…the kenotic path to union with God.

Last year, I boldly blogged about my fervent prayers during the National Championship because I felt the world needed to see a football program of coaches and players, who openly give credit for their lives and performance to God, be victorious.  My prayers were not for God to favor Clemson but were toward the quarterback Deshaun Watson who seemed cowed by the physical hostility he was receiving from the Alabama defense; I prayed for God’s presence to get through to him…for Deshaun to remember Whose he is and to feel that power.  I was not alone in my prayers and Deshaun rallied.  Clemson won that game.

Last night, when Alabama was once again making it personal, I tried everything I could think of to influence a win…everything short of making a deal with the devil.  But Jesus, in His gentle, tender way, reminded me, “My followers are not the winners of this world.”  Dammit.

I was reminded of the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane where one of the disciples took a sword to fight back the guards who had come to take Jesus to His crucifiction.  Jesus corrected the disciple then and He corrected me last night.  I argued, “But Jesus, don’t you want the world to see us victorious?  Don’t You want to win?”  Well, of course He does..just not in that way; that’s not how it works.  I need to go back and read the Sermon on the Mount.

I worry about Dabo, too.  I knew we (he and I) were in trouble when I saw the video clip of him dribbling grass from his fingers onto the playing field.  I recalled how he picked Tulane for his practice field, and why, and the same hotel in New Orleans that he stayed in 25 years ago, and why.  Those moves of superstition are no better than my daughter and myself donning every item of Clemson clothing and paraphernalia that we own to “set the mood,” a bit of juju, as one commentator put it.

Dabo is in a very difficult position…one of teaching these young men how to live a Christ-filled, Christ-guided life in a segment of the world where the goal is always to win…regardless.  The biggest lesson Dabo has to teach is how to lose…and not just losing gracefully and the lessons to be learned from it, but also why losing self identity and self importance is key to having given your life to following Jesus.  For a football coach whose job it is to teach them to win games, that’s tricky.  You have to fight to win in order to learn from the loss.  Jesus showed us this over and over.  Even the Apostle Paul danced the tricky dance of “to lose oneself is Christ” but also to not only run the race but to finish it.

It’s a paradox.  You must give your all to attain the goal but go through the ultimate loss at the pinacle to achieve the prize of salvation.  It’s twisted but it works.  If coached properly, this loss will be a huge gain for those young men…and the coaches.  My prayers are with them now.

My prayers are also with me because I see that I have been holding out this need for Clemson to be victorious….holding it separate from everything else in my life that has been damaged or destroyed.  I had a friend years ago who gave everything to God, except one area of his life.  He lead several AA groups, coached children and adults in TaeKwonDo, but kept his multiple sexual relationships out of his commitment to God. That did not go well for him…or others.

Not only did I realize I was fiercely attached to and idetified with the need for Clemson to win, I found myself deeply hating Alabama’s head coach.  Everything about his motives, values, and demeanor has been offensive to me…but I have no buseness hating on anyone !!!   (God, forgive me.)  Following the guidance of AA, I will pray for Nick Saban to be victorious and also for him to learn of the love of Christ…the love which motivates Dabo Swinney and the Clemson players.

Thankfully, much good came about last night: my daughter dug deep into her own well of wisdom to help me see all of the aspects of my blind spot and to lovingly help me deal with it.  She pointed out how the unpalatable tenor of Saban does not necessarily extend to the team; we watched the small interview of the ‘Big Guy’ on the Alabama team who made the unexpected touchdown; his demeanor was just the opposite of Saban’s. Da’Ron Payne was modest, humble, and grateful for having been given the opportunity.  Bless him.  Perhaps he will be the spark in Saban’s camp that turns Saban’s influence from a cancer to something healing.  Maybe.  I will pray for that.

Go TIGERS !

paw-1

You Can’t Fake the Real Thing

I’m torn…not between Clemson and anyone else winning the championship games, but between Clemson remaining special (if not unique) in its culture and other schools incorporating into their own programs what Clemson has had for a long time.  Granted, it will take a while for these other schools to completely reform; it starts with recruiting the right sorts: players and coaches.  But some schools are at least giving lip service to the change.  Nick Saban of Alabama has begun saying the kinds of things Dabo Swinney says all the time; Saban just doesn’t know what he’s saying, yet.  By that I mean Saban is intentionally using the same words but there is no deep knowing at the heart level, and you can’t fake the real thing.  When Saban gets around to understanding what he is saying, then he needs time to cycle through the seasons to process out the players who were recruited for all the reasons Alabama has been recruiting players.  Alabama’s criteria have not been the same as Clemson’s.

I don’t know the whole story, but a Clemson player recently transfered out of the program.  I noticed that the story gave some statistics and then enumerated the accomplishments of the player’s father.  I suspect this player came into the Clemson program for the wrong reasons.  It occurs to me now that most Clemson recruits emphasize the attraction of the strong family feeling among the Clemson coaches, players, and staff.  I have also noticed how often the opinion of the player’s mother is key.  I suspect that one major criteria in whether Clemson wants a specific recruit or not has to do with how open the young man is to a new strong fatherly influence…which he will definitly be under once working with Dabo Swinney and the other coaches.  You will be coached, taught, nurtured, encouraged, but also tested and held accountable.  When you emerge from the other end of this journey…this education and training tunnel…you will be a man your mother will be proud of and the world will look up to.

I believe that as long as Clemson is special in this mind-set of selecting those open to the program; training, nurturing, and proving them inside then outside; and encasing the whole thing in love; Clemson will continue to be second to none and victorious to the end.  This is business.  This is the business that Dabo Swinney is in.  This is the business of life and all institutions in the business of preparing young people for life would be wise to line their programs up with what Swinney has built.  That includes schools, churches, youth programs, and the military.  Commanders in chief, headmasters, scoutmasters, and head coaches should start with the heart and then work with the mind and body, instilling a culture of fierce love and tenacious grit, that does not tolerate indulgences of poor conduct born of fear (racism, abuse, disrespect, hatred,…)

Some aren’t called to such programs…but all could be.  All should aspire to be.

So, I’m torn.  Part of me wants Clemson to keep its culture unique like a secret..and to always win.  The other part of me wants this culture to spread throughout collegiate sports into professional sports and out into the fandoms, neighborhoods, public schools, military, and beyond; all of them will benefit.  In many cases, it isn’t possible to be selective in who you bring into a program but it is always possible to be selective in the leadership, instructors, and coaches.  And it must always start with the heart.