In late November, a Facebook post written by New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson — a husband, father of four, son of a pastor and a devout Christian — went viral.
In a heartfelt and eloquent essay, Watson spoke of his conflicting feelings regarding the death of Michael Brown and the looting and violent protests it inspired in the Missouri town of Ferguson. He finished with:
I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.
A University of Georgia graduate, Watson was originally drafted by the New England Patriots and also played for the Cleveland Browns before lading in New Orleans. He met his wife, Kirsten, in college, at meeting of the Fellowship for Christian Athletes.
Speaking to the Baton Rogue Advocate, she said, “Marrying a football player wasn’t on my radar. I just wanted to marry a strong man with strong faith in God. But our winding up at the same time shows that God had a plan for us.”
The couple established a faith-based foundation, One More, to assist with food and other aid, while also carrying “the hope and love of Christ to those in our community who need it most.”
On Dec. 31, Watson put up another Facebook post, outlining his hopes for the New Year, beginning in a football context but ultimately speaking to many people. I suspect this one might go viral as well, and for good reason …
New Year’s Resolution
Except for one team, the Super Bowl champ, the final meeting of the football season is a hard one. For many teams it is the last day of a season filled with unfulfilled expectations and scattered dreams. As hard as it is for players to face the music, it is equally as difficult for the head coach to address his team, for the final time, knowing that this last meeting is indeed the first meeting, and thus the “tone setter” for the next season. Many coaches use this opportunity to not only underscore the success and failures of the season but to address the reasons why these things happened and what must change to ensure the best chance for success in the future.
As a player, having sat in a few meetings like this before, I can tell you that it is easy to absolve one’s self from the challenge to change. After all, if I am not part of the “problem” coach must not be talking to me! The teams that rise from the ashes to greatness, however, are the teams that consist of teammates who understand that they ALL have a role in correcting problems because the apathy, complacency, pride, envy, indiscipline or laziness of one teammate or coach can have a devastating impact on the whole organization. So the challenge, as the coach continues to speak, is to discover your role in this change that must take place, and to make a decision to bravely carry it out. Whether it’s leading by example, leading vocally, changing a position, competing harder in practice or following team rules more strictly.
The New Year is upon us and many of us will be considering different New Year’s resolutions. Many will vow to eat healthier, work out regularly or restore an estranged relationship with a loved one. As we flip the calendar, our country is experiencing a great deal of racial turmoil and tension. The events of 2014 will forever be etched in our history and our minds. But what I’ll remember most are the myriad stories I’ve heard and read from people whose hearts have been softened and who for the first time realized the racist attitudes they have harbored their whole lives. Their “resolutions” to change how they’ve always thought about and treated people are the silver linings of these dark cloudy days.
My hope is that the reality check of 2014, springs us into a 2015 where we, like a defeated football team, discover OUR role in the change we want to take place. We all have a specific platform and sphere of influence. Maybe your role is to forgive. Maybe it’s to ask for forgiveness. Maybe it’s to be vocal and take a stand for truth. Maybe it’s to intentionally demonstrate to the next generation what it means to judge people by their character, not their skin.
New Year’s Resolutions usually fizzle out after a few weeks because actions, no matter how well intentioned, will eventually reflect the condition of the heart.
Ultimately, God is the one who can transform the hateful heart to one of love and respect for fellow man. My prayer for 2015 is that we collectively, as Americans invite Him to change what we obviously cannot. And that we courageously carry out our role in closing a wound that simply refuses to heal.