Blog peeps: it’s story time.
Really. You’re in for a doozy.
I made a pro and con list while deciding whether or not to go on Roadtrip USA. The con side contained a few legitimate concerns – the fact that I would be sleeping in the back of a mini van in various parking lots and campgrounds, that I would be quitting my full time job to volunteer indefinitely, that I would be leaving my friends and family behind to travel alone for nearly 3 months. These, I’m ashamed to say, were not chief among my concerns.
Nearer to the top of the list than I’d like to admit was the fact that I would miss the first half of the NFL season.
For the record, I realized then as I do now that putting football in the ranks of shelter, income, and humans may point to a few skewed priorities. But it’s a true story. Since my traveling conditions were so up in the air I had no way of knowing how or if I would be able to connect to the National Football League and could only assume that our relationship would suffer as a result. Perish the thought!
However, I’m thankful to report that at some point a hearty dose of reality smacked me upside the head like a Deacon Jones sack. Eventually I came to the conclusion that closing the door to a once in a lifetime opportunity that had so clearly been opened by the Lord just so I would not miss the first 10 weeks of the 2010 season would be 10 shades of crazy and then some. It would not be a moment enshrined in the Best Decision Making Hall of Fame. Quite the opposite, in fact.
So, I let it go. This moment bore a mantra, one which I repeated constantly and shared publicly when I missed the first week of the regular season while canoeing in Montana:
I spent most of Sunday repeating the mantra, “If there’s anything I’m not willing to let go of, I’m holding onto it too tightly,” in the hopes of talking myself out of being deeply disturbed at missing the first Sunday of regular season football. It worked on some levels – the logical, practical ones, for instance. The ones that know that there is life outside of the NFL.
But all of the other levels…well, they went down kicking and screaming.
It was not an easy transition. There were moments of unsettled gloom. There were instances of internal resistance. There were a LOT of questions pertaining to whether or not God really knew what He was doing, leading me all over the continental US like a nomad.
But can I tell you what happened over the course of the season? Because it’s really A+ material. I mean, I may be inordinately excited about it…but I really don’t think I am! It’s such a good story!
After that initial Sunday of chagrin when I wore out my mantra and recommitted to the cause, I saw more televised Packers games than I have ever seen in any season to date. Among them: a game in a movie theater in Portland, one in a temporary home in Colorado, and another in a gloriously free hotel room in Dallas. And not only did I get to see more Packers games than ever before, I got to go to Lambeau Field, home of the Packers, for the first time ever. I got to go to Cowboys Stadium, site of Super Bowl XLV, where the Packers would eventually play for the title. I got to come home and watch the last half of the season with my family, something I haven’t been able to do since I left for college. I got to watch the Packers defeat the Bears for entrance into the playoffs one week while sitting on my couch and celebrating with said family, and then watch them defeat the Eagles in the wildcard game the next week while sitting in a hospital room and appreciating the same celebration with the same family ten times more after life was turned upside down by my dad’s surprise vacation on the cardiac floor.
And then on Sunday…you know what happened! I know what happened! A record number of TV viewers know what happened!
I got to watch the Packers win the Super Bowl.
(Insert unspeakable joy and 1,000 victory laps around the living room here.)
The game mirrored the season: overcoming seemingly insurmountable injuries and adversity to win in the final minutes. And their season mirrored my season: constant change, a need for perseverance, a perpetual stream of blessings.
What I was so unwilling to relinquish in the beginning was given back to me in abundance in the end. I was given the ability to fully experience what was arguably the most incredible season the Packers have had in my lifetime in the most personal, tangible, special way imaginable.
There’s a verse in the Old Testament where God is talking to the Israelites about tithing. Clearly, the Israelites and I are in slightly different situations. I’m not wearing any burlap, for one. But despite the differences I feel like the sentiment still applies here. In Malachi 3:10 God says,
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!
And that’s exactly what I heard in my own heart on Sunday. It was like God was saying, “HEY! I know you thought you were giving something up, but I just wanted you to give it to me. And look at what can happen as a result! You can trust me when you give me football. You can trust me when you give me anything.”
I’m not at all saying that the Packers season and Super Bowl win are in any way tied to my decision to go on the trip and leave things I love behind. Not in the least. But what I do believe 100,000% is that when we give something to God, He is faithful with it. He will make it so much more than we could ever make it on our own. He will use anything – even football! – to tell us how much he loves us and cares about every detail of our lives.
One last anecdote: While I was driving my parents van the other day I switched from the radio to see what was in the CD player. Turns out it was “101 Best Loved Hymns.” Since that’s not usually how I musically roll I started flipping through other CD’s to put something else in (no offense, Mom and Dad). But before I could do so a hymn that I haven’t heard in FOREVER came on, one that I love, and I sang along and replayed it a few times. After getting stuck in my head and therefore on mental repeat for days, I realized it perfectly fits the story of the season. The first verse and chorus go like this:
I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.
But I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.
Man. What a season.