Today, I get to write about a neighbor. OK, not a close neighbor. I grew up in New Brunswick, Canada, and directly to our west, is the great state of Maine. Matthew Mulligan, tight end for the New England Patriots, grew up in Enfield, Maine -which according to Mapquest, is two and a half hours away from my parents home. So it is like we are neighbors, right? Anyway, enough of that – let me get to his story which is a fun one to share.
Matthew Mulligan played college football for the University of Maine. In 2008. after his college career was over, he signed as a free agent with the Miami Dolphins to pursue a career in professional football. He didn’t make the team, but was signed to the practice squad. Over the next five years, Mulligan would sign with a team, go to the training camp, maybe be a part of their practice squad, be promoted to the active roster on a couple occasions, and then be released. Even at the start of this season, he signed with the Patriots, only to be released 2 days later, and then resigned 5 days later again. As you can read in this article from bangordailynews.com, his spot on the Patriots hinged on the health of Rob Gronkowski, their Pro-Bowl Tight End who was recovering from injury.
Again, Mulligan was on the bubble. But you can also read in the article that Mulligan was depending on his faith in God to guide his path and lead him to where he was supposed to be. And you can read in this article from FCA, that along the way, even with so many brief stops in his career, he has been able to share his faith and help others come to know Jesus too, like former teammate Mike DeVito, who I blogged about a couple years ago. Mulligan says “For me, it’s believing that the Lord has a plan for me. At the same time, I have to take care of what I can take care of. It has been a difficult year thus far, for sure, but it’s a blessing to be able to play day by day.”
Here at the end of the season, he remains on the Patriots roster. He has been there all season, appearing in 15 games, catching 2 passes and scoring his second career TD.
Here are my takeaways from Mulligan’s story
Where is our Identity – I have never been fired or laid off in any work situation. To be laid off would be a hard thing to deal with. It would be humbling and maybe even embarrassing. And unfortunately, this world can tend to define who you are by what you do. If that job is taken away, so in some respects is a part of your identity. And we can fall victim to that too. We can put so much importance on what we do, that we make our job our identity. That is why we have a term like “workaholic”. With Mulligan, though, we read that he is not defined by playing football. His identity rests in his faith in God. When God is first in our lives, He will guide us through the challenges this world brings. But He needs to be the most important part of our life. He is where our identity must rest. Our identity is not tied to what we do. The Bible tells us in John 15.5 that apart from God we can do nothing, and that we should remain in Him. Mulligan sums it up like this. “I love football and I want to be able to play it for many more years, but football does not define who I am as a man, I have my faith in the Lord, my parents and my friends.”
The God of Another Chance – Another thought came to me too. Mulligan has been signed and released a number of times, but ultimately, he is invited to sign with another team. There has always been another chance to find a spot in the NFL. Likewise, God offers us chance after chance to know Him and continue getting to know Him. Now in an NFL career, ultimately, the chances do run out, but as long as there is breath in our lungs, our chances with God do not run out. He is ready to remind us of his forgiveness, his grace and the gift of eternal life that He offers all who will come to know Him as Savior. I pray that if you do not know Him, you will take Him up on the chances He provides you, and get to know the one who will make all the difference in your life.