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A Medal from Mettle

Meandering through my high school years was a challenging time in my life, but was filled with tremendous experiences I thought I’d never be a part of.  I don’t mean to seem melodramatic  by saying it was a “challenging” time, for many find high school a debacle.  In all reality I was struggling with my brother’s passing from being struck by a drunk driver and that’s not something that every 14 year old has to endure.

Clint, my brother who passed, was dashing in appearance, a witty academic and a stellar athlete, especially in football.  A month before his death he gave me his football all conference offense medal, for being undisputedly the best running back in the conference.  He placed it in a small box and rather than wrapping the box he simply attached a small piece of scrap paper which read:

“A reminder to work hard…

until you get yours

-Love Clint”

It was humility at it’s finest and simultaneously showed his strength of character to let go of an earthly idol he had worked tenaciously at achieving.  His character of intellect was also showing through.  He knew I was contemplating quitting football a year prior after having broken my 3rd bone playing football, a tibia & fibula fracture (the bones which form the calf portion of the leg).

After his passing, football became my identity and my drive.  I wanted to surpass my brother’s success on the field and off it.  However, I was more focused on the field aspect.

Each consecutive year in football I became better, and the honors became more prestigious.  My freshman year I turned down the offer to play on the JV/varsity squad and play only with the freshman team simply because we had a strong sense of continuity.  Sophomore year I received an honorable mention for offensive line, and my Jr. year I received my first all conference medal for offensive line.  In addition I was listed at an all suburban (area) lineman.

At the awards banquette my head coach, who’d also coached my brother,  called me up to received the award with tears in his eyes.  Fumbling the medal in his hand he dropped it in attempt to hand it to me.  He quickly picked it up and embraced me in a hug that seemed to last hours.  In front of the hundreds in attendance we cried in the embrace.

“Now you can give Clint his medal back.”

The words will forever be needle sharp engraved into my memory.   The following year of my Sr. season I received an all conference nomination for not just offense but for defense as well.  Compiling on top of that I also received an all suburban nomination for offensive line and the cherry at the top was an all state honorable mention.

Even though I had surpassed my brother on the football field, this self made idol of mine was a failure to me, as all earthly idols will eventually do.  I had endured several more injuries in football throughout high school which deterred me from the desire to play collegially.  Even though I had made an idol of playing football and adding prestige to my name, God had used the sport to bring me closer to him.  Even though I idolized the game He created more than the creator himself he showed me His amazing grace by providing me an outlet, one I was in dire need of.

Since my brothers passing I struggled with bouts of depression and anxiety, even to this day I still have an ongoing battle with anxiety and finding coping mechanisms is pivotal. One of the most efficient catalysts for coping has been within sports, especially football during the first years after my brothers passing.

Within football I enjoyed the camaraderie, I found self value, but more importantly I found my best friends.   These were fellow brothers in Christ who kept pursuing me, asking me weekly to go to our FCA groups.  It’s safe to say that without them I would’ve merely given up on my faith, but God never ceases to persist.

In summary God used my earthly idols to draw me inevitably closer to Him.   I gave my life to Christ prior to my brothers death and the hardship of losing him took a great toll on my faith.  Despite distancing myself from God, he never distanced Himself from me.

– Philippians 1:6 – God initiated His work in us and will finish it into eternity.  He is intimately involved in our life, training and disciplining us with His love to make us holy and like His Son (Hebrews 12:4-11; Romans 8:28-29).

 

Related:

God’s Relentless Pursuit of Us in Love by Jim Feiker

 

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