I live in Minnesota, and they take their football pretty seriously here. One of the first questions that I was asked by the man who would become my father-in-law during our first ever conversation was about where my pro football allegiences rested.
I learned quickly, that while my answer, (The New Orleans Saints) was not the best answer I could give, that it was better than being a Packers fan. Over the years, I have gained acceptance (or at least tolerance) from my in-laws, with regards to favorite sports teams but one truth remains. “The Packers are the enemy, and are never to be talked about in a positive light.”
Well, at the risk of alienating my in-laws, and my entire home state, lets spend some time talking about one of the stars of the Packers in recent years. Here is the story of Wide Receiver Donald Driver, and some truths his story brought to mind as I read it.
First of all, Check out this video from CBN. It is from Super Bowl Media Day last Winter. There are several interviews with players from both the Steelers and Packers who share what God means to them and how important a role their faith in God plays in their life and career.
The segment on Donald Driver, tells us he is the longest tenured member of the Packers team. He is a star receiver with very impressive career numbers. And reading his story, it is kind of amazing that we have even heard of him. Amazing, because, with all he had been through and the bad choices he had made, his life could have gone a very different and more destructive path.
As you can read in this article (its actually a sermon), Driver was leading a troubled childhood. drugs, felonies like stealing cars, homelessness, skipping school. Lots of trouble, not much direction. On a path that had a much better chance of leading to prison or death then to the NFL. An act of kindness after an accident went a long way to leading him to God. He ran his stolen car into the car of an older woman. She chose to show kindness and reach out to this troubles young man and from this event, Driver’s life began to turn around.
He focused on school work, earned a scholarship for college, and was drafted by the Packers in the 7th round of the 1999 draft. That is also amazing – playing at the level He plays at, being one of the top receivers in the NFL for over a decade, and he began it all and the 213th person picked in the draft.
Now, normally, seventh rounders are long shots to make the roster, maybe practice squad players who work their way into role players. Driver is now a 3 time pro bowler, and the Packers all time leader in receptions and receiving yards. All told, it is a remarkable story for a 7th rounder, and an amazing story of a life doomed for trouble, redeemed for great things.
Some lessons that I take from the story.
1- From the woman that he literally ran into. She showed true grace and (except the part where she lied to the police) Christlike character. I attended a conference a month ago and a couple of the speakers talked about making sure that as Christians, our lives intersect with non-believers. Because rubbing shoulders with non-believers is the only way that we can share God’s light with them. That means, though, that we need to be careful with how we interact with them. Would the lady in the story have been wrong to turn Driver in to the police when they arrived? No! but had she done that she wouldn’t have had a chance to talk to him and start the process that turned his life around. I am reminded stories in the Bible where a “sinner’s” life was changed by an encounter with Jesus. He didn’t teach them a “lesson for their own good” or “make an example of them”. Instead, he loved them, an offered them forgiveness and a second chance to change how they were living (Matthew, Zaccheus, the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the thief on the cross that stood up for Jesus). Instead of condemning people for their behaviors, we need to take opportunities to be a beacon, guiding them to God, where they can experience love and forgiveness. There are consequences for our actions, and there is a need to allow our lives to be changed. But conviction comes from God working in them, and not from us trying to impose our beliefs on people who don’t yet share them.
2- When given a second chance, a life that God redeems can do amazing things for Him. Donald Driver has chosen to give back to people who find themselves in the same situation that he did when he was younger. The Donald Driver Foundation offers help to people who are having financial difficulty and need a hand getting back on their feet. He also has written a couple of children’s books about trying hard and not giving up, even through set backs.
That sums up Driver. Trying hard and not giving up. It also sums up our God. He never gives up on us. He us always awaiting us to turn to Him and choose to let Him be Lord of our life. Sometimes, when life throws hard things at us (either by our own doing, or not) He is there to walk through it with us. And ultimately the plan that He has for us is the best option. He teaches us through our life events to prepare us to share God with others who are going through hard times.
I never get tired of reading these stories of lives turned around by God. And even though it risks a good relationship with my in-laws 😉 I will be glad whenever Donald Driver’s successes lead him to an opportunity to tell others about the difference God has made in his life. (I joke with them – I think they would appreciate his story, too)