Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Headphones of Colin Kaepernick: An Invitation to Prayer

My dear friend left me a voice mail excited to share the success of both of our local NFL football teams. For her it's the Denver Broncos and for me, the San Francisco Forty-Niners. She also wanted to know what I think of of the Niners' quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. I know exactly why she was asking this question. If I didn't live in the Bay Area and if I weren't a 49er fan, I'm not sure what my impression would be. To the outside world he is a young and talented quarterback who—can be smug? often appears disinterested? is a bit of a punk? is misunderstood?  I have yet to answer her question.
From Kaepernicking to Superman to the ESPN Body Issue, Colin Kaepernick is....
I decided it was worth breaking open with the student athletes who are part of a faith formation group at the school where I teach. As our local hero, the Kap-bias leans positive. They love that he is a great performer. They marvel at his sheer athleticism. The majority of these students mentioned the tattoos and headphones he wears. The principal did not know that his ink (his word, not mine) features passages from the Bible. A missed opportunity for this group on my part—I should have looked at his body art to help us pray! Next time... 

Instead, I used the headphones for imagery to guide our prayer.

These days headphones are everywhere. Anyone can dictate what they hear thanks to iPods, iPhones and more. The headphones that #7 now advertises are more than comfortable; they import the highest quality of sound and block out—fairly effectively—the world. Like it or not, they are a barrier; they keep the insider in and the outsider out.

Thinking a little more about these headphones, I thought of a question I was recently asked at the Archdiocese of San Francisco's Faith Formation series: Do you ever feel like God is wearing headphones? You ask for His grace, you come with special intentions and it's hard to believe God is listening. If you do, and I have, this might be the appropriate image.
I know I have felt that way time and again. God is distracted. God is listening to other, more worthy needs. My song is not in God's rotation. I know this is far from the truth, but it helps to put an image to my sentiments.

Perhaps you believe God gives you another reaction and response—the smug, "try me" look. You might feel that God would say to you "You want this? Really?" If you do, this might be the appropriate image.
One message from Pope Francis's first Angelus points to a much different reality. He said, "The Lord never tires of forgiving. We are the ones who tire of asking forgiveness." I suppose the opposite of generosity is smugness. Help me never to be complacent with my shortcoming and failings oh Lord! 
This photograph was taken in the press conference following the play-off win over Carolina. Kap had a great game and took the podium with ease. He maintains strong eye contact and invites all questions. Is your image of God like this? Do you come to Him with questions? Do you feel as though God is an engaged listener? Is God eager to answer?
This final photograph captures CK in a moment of delight. In Tattoos on the Heart, Jesuit priest Greg Boyle says "God created us because He thought we'd enjoy it." I love nothing more that to see someone I love enjoying a moment—that brings me joy. I have a sneaky suspicion that God isn't much different.

Sit with these images and determine which one speaks to your perception of how you see God. And when you're done, turn the tables. How does God see you? Are you wearing headphones? Are you smug? Are you inquisitive and curious? Are you smiling in delight? I hope so...Go Niners.

Photo Credits
Headphones Commercial

CK Delight
CK Inquisitive

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