Amid the explosive reaction (mine included) to the horrendous last-second call of the NFL’s Monday Night Football game between the Packers and the Seahawks, there are several things to learn.
1. One instant is huge, but usually doesn’t tell the whole story. True, the call at the end of the game was perhaps the most obvious determining factor in the outcome, but it was still only one play. Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers was harassed and sacked routinely throughout the game and the Packers offense was held in check. Better execution early would have prevented the officials from determining the outcome. In life, what we experience is rarely built on one “play.” The outcomes we see result from long-established patterns, good or bad. If you don’t like the outcomes you’re receiving, focus on what and who got you there.
2. Perfection and Utopia are out of our reach as humans. The NFL prides itself on providing a next-to-perfect on-field product, complete with instant replay for most every call. Even so, our insatiable desire for perfection is out of reach. Our inherent humanness, which brings inherent sinfulness, necessitates imperfection. Officials are imperfect. The outcomes of games are imperfect. You and I are imperfect. Apart from Jesus Christ, our quest for perfection will be a human effort and, by necessity, will result in imperfection. He alone is perfect and we gain His character only when our lives are submitted to Him. Keep striving for perfection on your own, but I’ll warn you…it ain’t gonna happen.
3. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. After the play was ruled in favor of the Seahawks, the game was effectively over, but not officially over. By league rules, Seattle was required to kick the extra point to end the game. Despite having left the field and entered an angry and distraught locker room, eleven Green Bay Packers were required to return to the field for the formal end of the game. None of them wanted to be there or to participate. As a man, husband, dad, and pastor, I can say with confidence that life is full of things that require a person to do them just because they must be done. It’s not always fun or desirable, but it’s life. And, by the way, God offers strength and joy for even the things we do that seem pointless.
4. Adversity sometimes builds character, but it always reveals what is already there. Packers coach Mike McCarthy, during the post-game press conference, was obviously angry. Yet, he demonstrated an enviable and admirable level of restraint and professionalism, refusing to take liberties in speech that most would consider justifiable under the circumstances. I know nothing of Coach McCarthy’s spiritual make-up, but it’s obvious that he has spent time developing habits that prepared him for that moment in the presser. Make no mistake, character takes time to develop and will be revealed when we least expect it. We cannot know the exact time our character will be on display, which means we must let the Holy Spirit build us every day, through good times and bad.
5. Pride comes before a fall. This is biblical and also obvious in life. I know very little of the details surrounding the dispute between the NFL and the regular referees. One thing is clear, though. Anyone who was arrogant enough to believe that replacement officials would perform the same as the regulars was just that, arrogant. And now the NFL pays the price. My point is not to take sides ignorantly, but merely to draw attention to the fact that the NFL has been bulletproof for several years, on top of the American sports landscape. Taking that for granted could have major consequences. It’s the same for us in life. Don’t be wise in your own eyes. Pay attention to the mistakes made by others, so that you will not fall into the same trap.