Man is like a breath;
his days are like a fleeting shadow. (Psalm 144:4)
I grew up at the foothills of a mountain range; I think they are part of the Sierra Madres in California. Often I would drive by a church with a huge statue of Jesus, probably around 50 feet in the air, with his arms upraised looking towards the mountains. Truth be told, it looked like Jesus was the referee of a football game and he was indicating that one of the teams had scored a touchdown or field goal. We always irreverently called it the church of the holy touchdown.
There are a lot of people going to that figurative church, especially on it’s holiest day: Super Bowl Sunday. I have a confession to make… I visited the church this last Sunday and I learned quite a bit. I learned first of all that I can learn something deep… even from a football game; second, that arrogance can blind; and last, that we don’t have all the time in the world.
Deeper Meaning from a Football Game?
I’m actually a hockey fan, and according to most polls and pundits I’m not supposed to like any other sport. Fact is, that’s true; most hard-core hockey fans don’t even know any other sports exist. There is ice in our veins, so to speak. But the Super Bowl transcends all that, at least for me. Maybe it’s partly because they’ll be talking about it at work and I won’t know what they are talking about if I don’t pay attention; maybe it’s the excitement and drama of one game winner take all… I don’t know, but I had to watch the game.
I’m glad I watched Super Bowl XLII, because I actually came away from it with some deeper insights, which I’ll be writing more about later. Which got me to thinking: can spiritual insights come from something as ordinary as a football game, even the Super Bowl? Many would think no way, this is an event that’s all about gorging ones self with chips and large amounts of beer. To some that would taint it, make it ineligible for anything spiritual.
I’m not one of those people. I firmly believe that spiritual insights can be had just about anywhere and anytime, with very few exceptions. I believe it takes a receptive heart. How about you? Let’s start with this: are you even looking for spiritual insights, something higher than yourself or this world? Or are you focused on a game, the here and now… small stuff? I hope you have a receptive heart that allows God to challenge you even during a football game. Following are a couple of things I gleaned from watching the Super Bowl.
I ended up watching the Super Bowl online, which is to say on a very little box on my computer. It was difficult to see what was going on. The fake hand offs looked real and I couldn’t see if the passes were connecting. But even I, a hockey fan with very little understanding of the game of football, saw that in the middle of the game the Patriots could have gone for a field goal instead of trying for the touchdown. It was a longshot of a field goal but their kicker had done it from that distance before. In the end, they neither got the field goal nor the touchdown and they lost by… a field goal.
I can somewhat understand the Patriots’ position; they had the most powerful offense in the league all season long. Even if they didn’t get that touchdown they were sure to get another, which actually they did. They just hadn’t considered that the Giants were going to get another one back so quickly. That is where, I believe, the arrogance brought the team down this last Sunday. Eli Manning and the Giants ended up going for the win, instead of the tie, and win they did, dashing the Patriot’s hopes of a perfect season.
The Bible says, “Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 18:12). A little humility, in this case going for a field goal instead of a touchdown, would have gone a long way. But it also got me thinking beyond this game, what about me? In what parts of my life am I choosing pride instead of humility? When should I go for the 3 points instead of 7?
Jerry B. Jenkins, who co-authored the wildly popular Left Behind series of books, was recently asked if the success of these books was changing his life. His answer was telling; he said something like, “I am doing my best not to let it. See, I’m a writer; that’s what I do, I don’t preach, or sing, or play an instrument… I write. For some reason God decided to bless this project beyond our expectations or predictions.” Now there’s a guy that knows a little bit about humility. I wonder if he would have gone for the field goal or the touchdown? Further, I wonder if the coaching staff or the players on the Patriots team would have said something similar?
Sometimes a little humility can go a long way. A little desperation could have helped the Patriots, too; it often helps me. That word, desperation, leads me to the second spiritual insight I gained by watching the Super Bowl.
The Clock is Ticking
As I watched the Super Bowl I couldn’t help but look at the number on the upper portion of the screen ticking down. As it continued to tick down the drama got more intense. I kept realizing that time was going to be a huge factor in this Super Bowl. Yes, the Patriots were up 10 to 14 towards the end of the game, but they weren’t at the end of the game. There were still a couple more minutes on that little clock on the screen, and it ended up being just enough time for the Giants to score one more touchdown and win the game 17 to 14.
That made me wonder: did the Patriots second guess all those minutes they could have done this or that to win the game? Like the field goal situation, I’m sure there were at least a dozen decisions they would have loved to take back with the time that was allotted to them. I’m also sure the Patriots wished they could have had just a little more time on that clock that now said 00:00. That’s the key isn’t it? There is only so much time allotted to us. What should we do with it? How do we live without, or at least with minimal, regrets?
Here’s the thing: as disappointing as it is for the Patriots to lose out on perfection because time ran out, that pales in comparison with what we have to lose when time runs out on us. As morbid as it sounds, we are all going to die; there is a clock ticking down on our lives. The only difference between that clock and the one on the screen is we don’t know what it reads. It could be 20 years or it could be 2 weeks. The questions are the same as the ones I’m sure the Patriots were asking.
What could I have done differently or what different decisions should I have made? When your clock runs out, will you wish you could have had more time added?
This made me really think: am I living on purpose so that I have no regrets and I can know I made an impact on this world? My wife loves cemeteries. I know it’s kind of weird, but she loves them because they are a constant reminder that we only have one life to live. We should make it count! Going to cemeteries also makes her think, what are they going to put on my tombstone? How will I be remembered? These are very important questions that often elude me, because I just don’t want to think about them. How about you?
I don’t often plan on watching the Super Bowl, often if someone invites me at church that Sunday I’ll go. I’m sure glad I did this year, otherwise I wouldn’t have started contemplating these weighty subjects:
- Spiritual insights can come at anytime, if we have a heart that is open.
- Arrogance blinds us, while desperation and humility can open our eyes.
- We only have so much time, so we should make each minute count.
When I used to make fun of “the church of the holy touchdown” I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Oh, I was religious, trying to conform to some rules and regulations, going to an all-boys religiously-affiliated private school, and church every Sunday. Back then there was a time for “spirituality” and a time for, well, other things. Since giving my life to Jesus in 1989 I’ve been learning to have the Holy Touchdown whenever possible. I’ve been learning to be more and more humble, because face it: there is no way to be arrogant when one admits that one needs a savior.
Lately, I’ve been truly learning the value of time. It’s counting down and when I meet my savior face to face I want him to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Whatever your persuasion, I hope this little glimpse into my journey through Super Bowl XLII has prompted you to think about some deeper issues… I know I still am.