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

“Boring Stories of Glory Days”

This is an essay written by a new friend…a fellow Clemson fan…a fellow Dabo Swinney fan.

Moments

I heard an interview the other day with a former Clemson football player who was in the locker room with the Tigers after they won the National Championship. He was detailing the utter jubilation contained within those four walls from 18 to 22 years who had just ascended the mountain top of college football. This was a moment. A moment that would live with them the rest of their life. A moment that would include a ring, hardware that they could wear on their finger for the world to see and ask about. A moment they could put on their resume even if they never played a single down or step on to the field. A moment they could rehash and retell to anyone who was willing listen.

This former Clemson football player continued that the head coach Dabo Swinney talked about how proud he was of his players. Proud that they never gave up, proud that they not only believed in themselves but each other and then he talked about the moment. He reminded his player that as great as this moment was it would not and should not be the greatest or defining moment in their young life. There were many more moments ahead of them, graduation, marriage, children, moments that should equal if not be greater than this moment right here, right now.

I am a big fan of coach Dabo Swinney. Now I don’t necessarily agree with his in your face Christian views or speech but I can’t fault the man on his faith because he has proven time and time again he not only talks the talk he walks the walk as well. Yes, he is making millions of dollars a year, money that can and will cover a generation of future Swinney’s but there was a time when he had nothing, literally nothing, but his faith and a dream and those moments, those memories keep him grounded. Ground he passes on to his player’s.

For many people a single moment, a single accomplishment defines them. They spend much of their life reliving or trying to hold on to that one point in time. What they miss is the rest of their lives, a full life filled with more than just one moment.

Now I think I’m going down to the well tonight
and I’m going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it
but I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days

Glory days well they’ll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days

Bruce SpringsteenGlory Days

My thoughts on tonight’s National Championship

Is the world ready for an affirmation of how Dabo Swinney is raising these young men and starting them off on their lives?

Yes, I know…this is about football.  It’s a game.

It’s all a game.  The key point is how you play the game.  And not just that; it’s how you prepare for the game, respond to the winning and losing of the game, and deal with every play.

Clemson Tigers are taught about life…and football is the language they are taught in.

Dabo Swinney, beloved inspirational speaker, has opened his heart to God and dedicates his presence, his words, and his actions to communicating to players, coaches, fans, spectators, and even people from Alabama, what it means to align oneself…one’s life…with God.

Bless him.

And God bless the Clemson Tigers.

Go Tigers!  I’m ALL IN.