Friday, January 9, 2009

College football season is finally over! I know that's a bigger deal form some of us than for others, but bear with me; I've got a point to make here. From Tim Tebow's emotional speech after the Ole Miss loss until the championship game last night, the season became more and more focused on him. That's OK, even for those of us who are not Florida fans. Tebow is an impressive young man, and I wish him well whether he comes back for his senior season in the Swamp or goes to the NFL. I don't know that I remember an athlete the media has touted the way they have Tebow. Let me hasten to say, I don't build my life around the values the media sets before us, but we're all influence by the media more than we want to grant. It has been impossible to watch football this season without hearing about him--not just his abilities on the field (which pretty much speak for themselves), but his Christian witness and his personal character, which are also pretty impressive. We've heard about mission trips, speaking engagements in prisons, and all kinds of other things he does in response to God's call in his life. I'd much rather hear about those things than the things we hear more often about college and professional athletes. It's refreshing to hear about a kid whose family has grounded him in Christian faith so that it is foundational to his understanding of himself. I wish I had done a better job of that with my own boys. What concerns me, though, is that the media talks about this as though it has never happened before. At one point in last night's championship game, one of the commentators, who had apparently recently met Tebow for the first time (I still haven't.) said on national television that he thought that anybody who spent as much as five minutes in Tebow's presence would experience a positive change in his or her life. I began to wonder if the Second Coming had occurred and found me in the wrong pew. One of the sports message boards I read every morning before I engage the world was abuzz today with the so-called man-crush the media has had with Tebow this season and the spiritual overtones it has taken. One poster asked if maybe Tebow had turned the water into Gatorade last night.
I'm for Tebow as a Christian witness (although I still wish Shula had recruited him to Alabama as he should have). I'm grateful for the opportunities he has that I'll never have to communicate about Christ with people. But I'm concerned about a society that is willing to elevate a college athete to near deity. (This from someone who lived in Alabama where everybody knows about football and God!)
Two important questions come to mind: 1.) are we so desperate for something to believe in that we'll expect a kid to be what we need when we know that sooner (sorry, Okies) or later he'll disappoint us. (I, for one, was thankful for the Gator chomp taunt that got him penalized, not for the penatlyl, but because it means he's still a kid!) and, more importantly, 2.) have all the rest of us mere mortals who claim faith in Christ as the foundation of our lives been so ineffective as witnesses of his presence in our lives that the world doesn't recognize him in us, or anywhere? That one stings.

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