An old article on the obsession of American football players have in trying to stay in the game haunts me. The article was brutally candid in an admiring yet condemning kind of way. I do not think the author had an agenda. He clearly wanted his audience to understand the lengths that certain players went to in trying to stay in the game. Without goring into details, they risked the continued use of their limbs, reasonable health, the ability to think, and even death. Every man interviewed asked if he would do it again. The answer was always, “yes”.
To those who do not play the game, the obsession is probably seen as misplaced at best, more likely as idiotic. Life reminds me that great prizes demand great sacrifice. I wonder what I would be willing to do or be if I really wanted something.
I look back and realize that my life tells a story of things that I really wanted. When I did, everything else came in second, even things I desperately wanted to keep. I wish I knew then what I know now. If I had that knowledge, I hope I would choose differently.
As I turn and look forward, I catch myself reflecting on my heart’s dreams. Life reminds me that obsession is not enough. It will take more; specifically it will take the help of others, God inclusive. David’s words are encouraging. “If he stumbles, he’s not down for long; God has a grip on his hand.” (Psalm 37.24)
American football players are often called gladiators. When I think of the sacrifices they make and the pain they are willing to endure to play the game, I think it is a good description. I start today imagining myself as a gladiator for compassion and community. It is a god-worthy obsession that requires the help of those around me as well as Divinity. It will be hard. It will be painful. Others will not always understand what we feel called to do and be. With courage, together we can make a difference.