Role models are an important part of growing up. Working with kids as I do, I see it often. The kids will be playing some kind of football game, one will score a touchdown, smile big and dab like Cam Newton. I smile at their efforts, but I also remember similar things that I would do to mimic my heroes. When I would play floor hockey, I would tuck my shirt in on one side like Wayne Gretzky used to do. I would hold up 2 fingers to let teammates know there were 2 outs when I played baseball – like I’d seen countless baseball players do. I don’t think my teammates paid much attention to me, but I felt I was doing my part to inform the team. And my batting stance would change frequently as I tried to copy whoever’s unique stance had caught my eye most recently. And I don’t believe that I am alone. I think that we are all inclined to copy others and strive to be like them.
So it makes sense that we can notice similarities in the realm of faith. Growing up in a church-going family, it was easy to take some cues from my parents on how to live a Christian life. Sunday mornings were never a question, we would get up and get ready for church. Supper would not start until we had prayed to thank God for our meal, and for many years, after supper meant time for family devotions. But as I got older, I kept trying to copy them. The piece that I missed out on was building my own relationship with God. It would be years later, after struggling to find purpose for my life, that I learned that the missing piece was making Jesus the Lord of MY life.
Former Giants Defensive Lineman Justin Tuck and I have that in common. Tuck was a 3rd round pick out of Notre Dame in 2005. He played in almost 150 career games in his career. He was a 2 time Pro Bowl participant, a 2 time All-Pro, and a 2 time Super Bowl Champion. In fact, many thought he should have been the MVP of both Super Bowls for his outstanding defensive play against the Patriots (2 sacks in each game, 1 forced fumble, and the pressure that lead to a safety). Check out this video from “Beyond the Ultimate”
He says “But personally, I didn’t find my relationship with God to be strong until after I left home to go to the University of Notre Dame. I was so accustomed to going to church just because my father and all my family members went to church. But when I got out of my home and learned more about faith for myself, that’s when my relationship with Christ changed and became stronger.”
Another thing he talks about is having a good support network to help you battle against temptation. He says (Beyond the Ultimate article) “I’ve always had people to lean on for advice and support, which has helped me keep walking the right way. Temptations are great, but I’ve found that when you have support, it’s easier to make good choices.” Choosing to follow God and make Him top priority doesn’t make life easy. In fact, there are some ways that life becomes so much more challenging, especially if you take a position of leadership. He is very open and outspoken about his faith. He says in this article from Gospel Light Minute “Live your life the way that you know you’re supposed to, which is living for God. Don’t worry about what people might say or think…You’re not going to make everyone happy so you might as well do what you know is right.” Tuck talks about being in front of teammates, leading a team Bible study. He talks about the importance of studying the Bible and having something helpful to say. I have been learning that the best things to use for teaching others is what God has been teaching you. It is important though to put in the effort to letting God teach you from His Word first.
Here are my takeaways from Tuck’s story
1- Finding Your Faith – This was a lesson that learned in my life. My parents faith was not enough to save me. I needed to meet Him for myself and spend time getting to know Him. I now try to encourage the youth that I work with to do the same. I would love to choose to follow God for them, and for my own kids too. But the best that I can do is model an authentic faith for them to see, give them opportunities to encounter God on their own and pray that they choose on their own to follow Him with their lives. I love to tell them the stories of the Bible and share with them what God has been teaching me. I have seen them take interest in the things of God. I even had the joy of putting together a coloring book/poem with my oldest daughter talking about the true meaning of Christmas. Click here for more info.
2- The Choice is Yours but a Good Network Helps – Tuck talks about his family and about teammates that have helped encourage Tuck in his Christian walk and his battles against temptation. We have to choose for ourself to follow God, but He does give us other people to encourage us, to teach us, to call us out when we are straying from God and to lovingly go through this life with us. Who is your network? Are the people you turn to for advice people who are on the same journey as you?
3- Who should we Mimic – I started this post talking about the people I used to copy. The problem with mimicking people is that they often turn out to be flawed humans. Looking to them and copying them can lead to troubles because they are not perfect people or perfect examples. There is only one example that is truly worth emulating. That is Jesus. Over and over again we read in the Bible the invitation to be like Jesus. The best way to know the example He set is to read and study His Word. He did some remarkable and radical things. He calls us to a radical life. Let’s set our eyes on Him and choose Him each and every day.