Fall is coming, and for many of us, 16 weeks of wonderful competition (plus the playoffs) are about to begin — the NFL football season is almost here!
Why is it that so many of us love to watch football? I find football to be a living expression of spiritual qualities, such as the precision illustrated in a perfectly executed pass; the agility shown in a beautiful catch; and especially, the mental toughness carried out in a goal-line stand by a defensive line that stops an offense cold.
To me and many others, football is more than a game. It is full of life lessons for all of us, including the value of practice, the joy of teamwork, the importance of dedication, and the profitability of spiritual exercise.
Former Chicago Bear Bill Wade knows about these life lessons. In the book Sports and Faith by Bears co-owner Patrick McCaskey, Wade wrote, “We readily admit that the game of life is basically spiritual. As we play the game and learn our purpose, whether it be president of a bank, worker in a factory, secretary, or quarterback of a football team, we must exercise ourselves spiritually to win the battles of life.” Continuing in this vein, Wade identified prayer and reading the Bible as basic exercises that strengthened him spiritually.
Like Bill, I find the Bible, especially the Gospels, so vital in my life. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount has taught me that humility, forgiveness, loving everyone (especially our enemies), and the fact that God is the Father of all of us, can bring us spiritual well-being, an awareness of our true identity as God’s loved child, proof of God’s protecting power, and even physical healing.
High school and college football player George Nutwell found this to be true. He stated in an article in The Christian Science Journal, “Praying about God’s protection is something I’d learned from my parents…I got into the routine of praying to understand my safety…and experienced quick healings of ankle sprains, shoulder injuries and an Achilles tendon tear.”
Healing prayer, acknowledging the love of God embracing us, is a basic promise of the Bible. For instance, Psalms 103 states, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.” But what makes promises such as these come alive in our experience?
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science Church, explained that as we gain a deeper spiritual understanding of God and our true identity as His spiritual child, we can experience divine healing and protection, no matter where we are or what we are doing. She wrote, “The history of Christianity furnishes sublime proofs of the supporting influence and protecting power bestowed on man by his heavenly Father, omnipotent Mind, who gives man faith and understanding whereby to defend himself, not only from temptation, but from bodily suffering” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 387).
Muskego High School coach Owen Jarrette remembers playing on a college football team that experienced an extraordinary lack of injuries. He attributes this to divine protection as a result of his and others’ prayers for the team. He wrote, “Our football team didn’t have anyone miss a game for concussion, broken bones, torn ligaments, or anything! It’s truly amazing how protected we were. Did prayer and Christian Science have an impact? Absolutely! It’s a fact that I never missed a game, was never injured, and played the most dangerous positions in the game.”
The truly wonderful part is that this kind of healing and protection can be experienced by anyone – whether we are involved in sports, or anything else. God’s spiritual qualities are in all of us, and His healing and protecting power just needs to be explored and learned.
Yes, football season is a time to watch and cheer for our favorite teams. But it’s also a great time to search the Scriptures, and find the healing power of God defined in that book.
©2017 Christian Science Committee on Publication for Illinois