How do you make decisions? I know that for me, I like to remain uncommitted for as long as possible as I process what is going on and figure out the best course of action. When there is a proverbial fork in the road, how long can I keep one foot on each path before I have to commit to following one way instead of another. That is my preferred method and it can drive the people around me crazy, especially if I am in a leadership position. But sometimes, I am not afforded that luxury. I need to make a choice and stick with it, regardless of what consequences that choice brings. And those consequences can be significant. Often we hear about important decisions being a “matter of life or death” But for Kevin Mawae, who finished his All-Pro career with the Tennessee Titans and thus earns the “Throwback Thursday” post ahead of tonights Titans-Jaguars game, the most important decision that he made in his life was brought on by life and death. I will explain a little later.
First, about Mawae, who was a 2nd round pick by the Seattle Seahawks in the 1994 NFL draft. He played for the Seahawks for four seasons before leaving via free agency to play for the New York Jets. With the Jets, Mawae would find stardom as a member of the line that blocked for Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin. He would also anchor the 2000 Jets offensive line that tied the NFL record for fewest sacks allowed in a season with 20. He would go on to play in 8 Pro Bowls, be named to 7 first team All-Pro lineups and be named a member of the 2000-2009 All Decade Team. He would join the Titans in 2006 and play the final 3 seasons of his career there, greatly improving their running game and lowering their sacks allowed.
But like so many I have written about on this blog, Mawae had some unbearable hardships off the field. As mentioned earlier, the most important decision he made in his life was greatly influenced by death AND life. It was the death of his brother John in a car accident closely followed by the birth of his son that led Mawae to open a Bible and discover who Jesus is. You can read about it in this article from The Goal. Mawae says “Then, just before my third year in the league, my older brother John was suddenly killed in a car accident. He and I were best friends.(…) I was really crushed. Yet, about the same time, my wife Tracy was pregnant and gave birth to our son Kirkland. I couldn’t help but ask, “Why would God take a life away and then create a life?” I wasn’t angry with God, I just didn’t understand. On my own, I started reading from the Bible, starting with the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. My brother had just been baptized before he died, and in my reading I came to realize that God has a plan for everybody. We can ask why, but there are things that we’ll never know the answer to. That’s where faith comes in.”
He continues saying “My questioning brought me to an understanding that what I needed was a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We wanted our son to be brought up in a Godly home, so I committed my life to Christ. We know that God used John’s death and Kirkland’s birth to bring us to Himself – because He loves us.”
Mawae chose to follow God and that decision impacted not just his life and his family’s lives, but his teammates and fans, too. In this article from NY Times, we learn that Mawae sees football as a platform to share about Jesus with others. During his playing days, he would be very open about his belief in God. He says “‘I believe God puts people in places for a number of reasons. My No. 1 reason is we had three Christians on the team when I got here and it’s gone from 3 to 15 guys in our Bible study… It gives me a bigger platform to profess my faith in Christ. I take football as an opportunity to reach out to others, to show I can be a tough football player and a Christian. I feel I have a bigger influence spiritually than physically”
Here are my takeaways from Mawae’s story:
1- Decision Making – I opened this post by talking about my own decision making process and how it can be flawed or frustrating to others (and honestly to myself sometimes). But one great thing about God is that He can show how amazing He is whether we are making good choices or not. I think of the story of Jonah in the Bible. Jonah made bad choices. He ran from God and did the exact opposite of what he knew God wanted him to do. And God was still with him and through an amazing string of events, took Jonah back to the right place and give him another chance. Was it scary, uncomfortable and/or awful for Jonah? I would imagine the answer is a resounding yes! But is it an awesome story of God’s grace and forgiveness? Absolutely. And through the story of Jonah, there are groups of secondary characters that also get to see and experience God’s power, forgiveness and mercy. (The fishermen and the people of Nineveh). Be encouraged to take a chance, commit to following God. And even if you make bad choices, God is still there and can lead you back to where He wants you.
2- You Story is Yours! Use it! – God is the author of countless amazing stories – including the one you are living right now. It is full of hard things, pain, heartbreak, bad choices and hard lessons. But it is also full of amazing things like love, grace, forgiveness and the Creator of all things actively offering guidance and challenges for us to follow. Don’t be afraid of your story. Don’t be afraid of your past or what you’ve been through. But don’t let that be the focus either. Instead, focus on the God who has been with you through it all, and has a plan to use your story to draw others to Him. We saw it with Mawae’s brother playing a role in leading Kevin to choose to follow God, and we see it in Kevin’s story as he shares so openly the importance God plays in his life. How can God use you and your story for His purposes. Let His path for you be the path you choose to follow!