Day 52 – Playing for a championship

I don’t know if you watched college football last night, but we did at our house. I’m not sure I mentioned that our son is a football coach at Stanford University, so we celebrated big after their win over USC. Living my whole life on the west coast, I am a die-hard PAC-12 guy. My son-in-law (big Alabama fan) and I have fun sparring regularly about SEC vs. PAC-12. The late game last night, surprisingly was an SEC game. I enjoyed watching the drama unfold between Ole Miss and Alabama. Ole Miss was able to upset the heavily favored Crimson Tide at Alabama. I listened after the game as they interviewed, Hugh Freeze, the Ole Miss coach… I loved hearing him give glory to God for his team and for their win. Probably like most of you, I love hearing Christian athletes and coaches publically acknowledging their faith in Jesus when given the opportunity. I mentioned before that many of my illustrations and lessons come out of sports. What I didn’t tell you is how athletics has also been a place God has used to work out my theology in some areas of my life. The interview last night with Mississippi’s coach is an example. Let me explain.

I’ve heard Christian athletes, after a big win, give thanks to the Lord for the win. On occasion I have heard them say things like, “God answered our prayers today with this win.” Over the years I’ve had the privilege to speak at pre-game chapels for a few different college football teams. I’ve prayed with a room full of Christian athletes before the game, asking God to keep them safe, let them use the gifts and talents God gave them, but I have also asked God to bless them with a win. Which begs the question, “What about the roomful of Christian athletes in the other locker room praying the same prayer?” In other words, does God intervene in athletic contests? I remember the movie long ago called, “Angels in the Outfield”, the basic gist of the movie was an angel helping a player help his team get into the championship game. The catch was when the angel explained before the championship game the player would be on his own. He said, “Championships have to be won on the field.”

It’s really a less important version of the question we have been asking since this journey began. How much of our day-to-day activities does God control and how much of our life is just life? When two rooms full of athletes are praying for a win, in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter what the answer to the question is? But when multiple parents are on their knees, begging for their child’s life, all of a sudden it is an important question. And of course as we’ve talked about, there is the explainable and the unexplainable. We know some of the answer is people’s free will in a fallen world. The unexplainable of course is unexplainable; it is God’s domain, as a sovereign and good God, chooses when and how to answer our prayers.

But if I’m honest, as we face this next leg of our journey, it continues to be a question we are asking ourselves. After all, Justus is a sweet boy that loves the Lord. His parents are good parents that take really good care of him and had helped Justus hide God’s word in his heart. Why did he deserve to become sick? And then once he was sick, we had an army of people praying for a miracle, and yet now we face a very long, difficult and unknown future. Of course the place we should land, (and we try really hard to land here) is we know the miracle has already happened. We know that Justus still being with us, IS a miracle. We are so grateful that we get to even talk about moving to a new hospital tomorrow. We know many others don’t get that opportunity.

Here is what I know for sure. God prepared us for this crisis and He was faithful to be with us through the darkest nights. God IS the God of miracles. God IS able. God IS good. Thank you for praying because God answered your prayers. My hearts aches for those whose stories ended differently where God’s answer was different. My conviction continues to be this: God’s mercies are new every morning. He desires to meet us and never leave us in the hardest and darkest of times. We were with other patient’s families during Justus’ stay, people whose outcomes weren’t like ours. We still pray for those families. We pray those families will come to a place that God can minister to them like only He can.

As for Justus, we are in Portland now getting him ready for the big move. You’ll see in the picture, Kelli’s first moment with him as we arrived and he woke up from his nap. Don’t miss the fact that he has his right hand rubbing his Grammy’s face. It feels a little bit like we are in the pre-game for his championship series, only I think this is the kind of championship God most certainly gets involved in. Please pray that the transition is smooth and he continues to heal from his operation. Pray for Alyse and Jason as they consider how to handle the family logistics of this newest transition. Who knows, maybe one day, when a reporter sticks a mic in Justus’ face and asks about his championship, he will be able to give God all the glory. You and I will know what championship he’s talking about!!!