The Family

The Family

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Destiny is a strong word. If you are a college football fan you may have found yourself tired of hearing how casually the word was thrown around come mid-season. If I had to listen to one more announcer talk about how a team controlled its own destiny - well I don't know what I was going to do. All I know is that it got old.

I mean, come on. It's a game. Someone has to win. What does destiny have to do with it?

I guess part of that for me was related to how I feel about the notion of God in sports. I can't adequately explain my reluctance, maybe confusion is a better word, at seeing athletes point up to heaven after a touchdown. Even worse are the post-game interviews in which a person credits his catch or his throw or his run down the field to God.

Doesn't God have more important things to do?

It's not that I don't believe God isn't capable of being visible in every area of life. I don't fault athletes for expressing their faith or belief in God's divine help. In many ways it is encouraging to hear young men talk so openly about their love for God.

It's just that I have trouble believing that a holy God could be concerned about what happens in a ballgame where a lot of money is thrown around, showboating and pride take center stage and every kind of language known to man is used by fans and coaches alike when in the same world starvation exists, children's bodies are ravaged by cancer, people struggle with their sanity, tyrannical leaders gas their own people etc., etc, etc.

A New Yorker cartoon once illustrated this point. An angel was approaching God with a list of the world's problems, and God told the angel to hold on while he helped a player sink his shot.

Then something indescribable happened in a game a few weeks ago. It shook me up and left me with the notion that what happened was nothing less than divine. A last second catch, that seemed to be nothing more than a fluke, literally made me fall to my knees and cry. I've never cried about a game in my life. The only thing that's ever made me tear up in relation to sports is the national anthem, especially the first few times after 9/11, but here I was on my knees weeping with joy and disbelief.

Many around here were calling it a miracle. I don't know if I was ready to go that far, but there was something mystical in it. It wasn't just the catch. It was the implications for what was to come because it set up what many were referring to as the most epic ballgame in the history of this well-known rivalry.

Yeah, yeah, whatever. There was no way this next game was going to live up to the hype and expectations.

Well, if you know anything about football, you know that next game turned out to be one for the history books.

My husband and I were at that game when he grabbed my shoulders and shook me at the end declaring that something was going on. I rolled my eyes like he was some kook because he sounded like a nutcase.

But I knew what he meant. I felt it too; I just didn't want to say it.

And then this past Saturday night sealed the deal. So many ifs had fallen into place already, and it seemed too much to really believe even more could happen. As the night wound to a close, at one point all my husband and I could do was look at each other with mouths agape and shake our heads.

Now our team is off to play in the mother of all college football games come Jan. 6.

All the sportscasters are still throwing around that word destiny. At this point, I don't know any better term because what has happened these past few weeks is too eerie to refer to as anything less.

It's wonder and joy and a sense that God does get our attention in the mystery of something as trivial and inconsequential as sports. Even as I type this, it feels so trite to express these feelings about it.

Yet there is joy in any number of things. And if you are an Auburn Tiger, after a humiliating and humbling football season past, you can't help but walk around with a giddy feeling and a spring in your step and a belief that God is in ALL the details.

As writer Andy Staples said in his Sports Illustrated article, "COLLEGE FOOTBALL makes us believe in miracles."

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