I enjoyed playing sports all throughout my youth. I played lots of baseball, and a little basketball on an organized, competitive level and a bunch of others for fun. Because I was not in a lot of competitive sports, I didn’t ever feel the pain of being cut until I was in 9th grade. I tried out for my junior high school soccer team and sailed through the first tryouts which were for all grades at the school. But being a ninth grader, I was only qualified to play Varsity – I was too old for Junior Varsity. So even though I sailed through the first round of tryouts, when I got to the Varsity tryouts, I struggled. I was cut on the second day of tryouts and not invited back for the final day. I was crushed. I really wanted to make the team. That is the closest I’ve ever come in sports to understanding the feeling that a player must feel when he is cut from a professional team. It has to be even more crushing than my junior high school experience because it involves a career, a livelihood.
Clinton McDonald was cut from the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the 2013 preseason. Arkansasleader.com shares how he thought he’d had a solid preseason and he was shocked to be cut. He was not worried about it being the end of his career, he was sure that he would catch on somewhere, but he was saddened by the thought of losing the relationships that he had built with the Seahawks. He kept working out, hoping to get a call from an NFL team that would allow him to continue his career. He was invited to work out for the New England Patriots. They seemed ready to sign him when his phone rang with an offer from another NFL team… The Seattle Seahawks. He returned to Seattle and joined the team and stuck through with them all the way to the Championship as they defeated the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. So what helped McDonald recover and make the most of this new chance? It would be easy to get down or carry bitterness and let that be the motivating factor – setting out to prove everyone wrong when they cut you. That is a natural reaction, but it is not the one that McDonald took. Instead, he took joy in the training and let the stress of trying to win a job back fall to the side. He says “God got me to step back and take a look and say, what are you going to do with your new opportunity. When he showed me that, I felt relaxed. I wasn’t worried about it anymore. I just felt like I was blessed to have a name that was in the NFL, and what I could do to glorify God because of that.”
Another chance did come calling and led McDonald to the top goal the NFL offers – a Super Bowl win. Here are some thoughts McDonald shared about that experience. He says “it just amazes me that God has blessed me, and not with being in the NFL or playing in the Super Bowl. God has blessed me by writing my name in the Lamb’s Book of Life. To be honest with you, the Super Bowl win feels good. But having that responsibility of being a child of God, that’s heavier to me than wearing that ring….We, as children of God, we have to go out there and fight the good fight. He gave us mercy and grace through his Son Jesus Christ who died on a cross because we have sinned. We don’t even see how unworthy we are. And for Him to give it freely, we’re being selfish if we’re not living for him and giving it all back to him. So I trust Jesus, and I try to stay grounded and lean back on the Lord”
Here are my takeaways from McDonald’s story:
1- Book of Life – McDonald, in this last quote brings to mind a great passage from Luke 10. Jesus has just sent out 72 followers into the communities to declare the arrival of the Kingdom of God and to heal their sick. They returned with amazing experiences and stories of how they saw God at work. They say “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” They have been given authority to accomplish God’s work in their region. But Jesus offers them some important words in verse 20. He says “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” What does this mean? Don’t get caught up on keeping track of all that is going on in this life. The exciting part is in the life that is to come and that will last forever. McDonald reminded me of this passage with his words. Super Bowls, success, God’s blessings, these are all nice and make us feel good, but they pale in comparison to what is truly important and that is that God has prepared a place for us to be with Him forever. Have you accepted this invitation? Its easy to get caught up in all that life is bringing our way, good and bad, and letting that cloud the vision of what is truly important. God loves us and Jesus died for us so our sins could be forgiven and we could be with Him forever. That is truly worth celebrating.
2- Iron Sharpen Iron – This is taken from Proverbs and means that challenges and friction will make us stronger. This happens when God is a priority in our life and we allow Him to refine us through the trials of life. This is such an important verse for McDonald that he has named his annual football camp the “Iron Sharpen Iron Youth Cheer and Football Camp” McDonald is using his life in football to impact youth by helping them develop football skills, and also by pointing them to the importance of faith in God. Check out this video to learn more about the camp