One of the tensions of being a Pastor and an avid (borderline rabid) NFL fan comes down to a certain day of the week. A day which serves as an intersection between my passion, calling and responsibilities; one day a week that only presents a conflict in the months from September to February. That day is Sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY! Football and chur, uhhh, I mean church and football. I wish I could say that I was 100% spiritual all the time and while I sit in church services I am always taking sermon notes on my iPhone on the front row and never checking football scores on the NFL app.
Now don’t get me wrong, I will never consistently choose a football game over my passion for building God’s house and His people. The local church far outweighs any other passion I may have. But there are moments where I do feel the pull of the pigskin. One of those moments came several weeks ago during the NFC Championship game between the Green Bay Packers and my beloved Seattle Seahawks.
What a game. For nearly 56 minutes, the Packers had dominated my team. Everyone had given up on them, myself included. There were more mistakes, interceptions and fumbles from our team in this one game than in the eight games leading up to this one. And while the rest of the world (and let’s be honest, most Seahawk fans) had figured this was the end of a great season, the only ones who hadn’t given up were the Seahawks themselves; and then suddenly it turned.
Comeback doesn’t even begin to describe what happened; miracle is more apropos. In three and half minutes, the Seattle offense came roaring back and forced Green Bay into overtime. It was at this point that my pastor hat came back on and I was forced (so dramatic) to leave my home, and my team’s future, behind as I jumped on a subway to make to our evening Union Square church service.
For 30 long minutes I sat on a subway car, underground, with no cellphone reception or access to the nail biting contest above. When I arrived at the Union Square station I knew the game would have already been over and so I started up the stairs with suspense. As I emerged from the station into the brisk, evening air I looked up to the most beautiful of sights: the Empire State Building boldly lit up in Seahawk blue and green. I threw my fist into the air and let out a shout of joy/relief! (Then snapped the above picture to treasure the moment forever.)
Despite their inconsistency for a majority of the football game, the Seahawks never threw in the towel. Even in Seattle, fans had exited the stadium with 5 minutes left in the game, only to kick themselves afterward upon hearing the swing in fortunes. Can you imagine the heartache to be a believer, walk out on your team and find out later that you missed out on the comeback?
As a leader, I wonder if you’ve ever been tempted to throw in the towel on people you’re leading. It’s easy to consider that option. Sometimes there are missteps and failures. Sometimes our team members drop the ball. Sometimes it feels like you have invested your life into someone and they come up short…again. I’ve been on both sides of the coin. There have been many times where I’ve made mistakes and costly errors but in the end I had people in my life that didn’t walk out on me with five minutes left in regulation. The ability to consistently believe in people and keep a short memory are critical to leaders who build leaders that go the distance. Learn how to focus on people’s potential. Teams/people that are encouraged regularly will often be inspired to go above and beyond.
Have you had people in your life that believed in you even in difficult times? How did you respond as a result of their influence?