Sunday, September 15, 2013

Why I Am Now Writing About Tim Tebow....

This book surpassed my expectations
One component of my students' final project in RS 475: Sports and Spirituality is for them to “name the athlete, a religious/spiritual person, author, or guest speaker you “met” in class who has inspired you most?” Manute Bol, the 7’7” Sudanese basketball player and devout Christian as well as Eric Liddell the Scottish runner and subject of Chariots of Fire are perennial favorites.  And to my surprise, so is Tim Tebow—but not because they “met” him…but rather, because we didn’t.

I thought including Tebow into the curriculum was unnecessary—his example too obvious, his faith too vocal. I believed that young people found his devotion too strong and un-relatable.  Instead, they were intrigued by his story and drawn to learning more about his beliefs and his life.  

Even though he has been cut from the New England Patriots, he will be included in the 2013-2014 school year curriculum. This year’s class will“meet” him. In 2011, I wrote a blog posting "Why I'm not writing about Tim Tebow" and now I am.  Here’s why.

Tebow’s autobiography “Through My Eyes” has made quite an impression on me. To be honest, my expectations were low. I have read some incredible biographies about athletes, most of which were written after their retirement from professional sports. I questioned what a high profile athlete in his early 20s could offer by way of wisdom, perspective, overcoming adversity and more. What the reader will not find in a typical biography is trumped by what you will find. For example, every chapter begins with a passage of scripture that is something much more than words he has memorized.  The fullness of his chosen passage serves as a testimony of his life. 
Words and numbers written in eyeblack are now forbidden, but prior to that Tebow would include a verse of Scripture. This is most likely a reference to Ephesians 2:8-10. Worth looking up and praying with! 
Here are but three examples that every athlete, their parents, coaches and administrators might consider.

Tim Tebow is the youngest of five children.  His two older brothers Paul and Robby were his first teammates and competitors. They also met athletic success at an early age.  Therefore, from the age of 5 on, his parents decided to institute a rule. 

Tebow writes, “we were forbidden from talking about our accomplishment, unless asked first by someone else.  If someone specifically asked us how the game went or how we played, we could answer, we couldn’t volunteer the information.  They based this new rule on the admonition found in Proverbs 27:2
            Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
            A stranger, not your own lips.
Superman from a young age on....
I think the Tebows are on to something.  Our society often defines us by what we accomplish; athletics puts our achievements on display like little else does.  But a humble spirit begets other virtues such as gratitude, kindness and joy.  Such virtues yield spiritual fruit—even when the shots don’t fall and the wins don’t come. 

Tebow admitted it was a lesson he had to learn and has continued to work on. 

It’s not a bad rule for parents either (to implement with regard to their own child’s athletic success).  

The Family that Plays Together Stays Together
It will serve as a surprise to no one that one of the greatest gifts a parent can give their son or daughter is time.  And Tebow is proof that it can not only strengthen the bond between parent and child, it can also help him or her in athletics.
his parents, Pamela and Bob Tebow
“My dad never coached us formally in a team setting because of international trips and his irregular schedule.  What he did was spend lots of time with us, teaching us not only to hit, but also to throw.”

Reading his words reminded me one of my former students, a two-year starter on the boys’ varsity basketball team.  Johnny didn’t play on an AAU traveling team, he wasn’t the tallest or even the strongest shooting guard but he earned all league honors and still holds a WCAL record (most free throw points in a game). A rare profile in today’s game, everyone wondered, “How did he do it?”

Every single night, Johnny would practice shooting with one person—his father.  His dad did the grunt work—rebounding and passing, advising and encouraging so his son could learn, improve and succeed. I like to think that their time together—strengthening the fundamentals—was a sacred time for they two.  And the beauty of this story is that when I last saw Johnny, he excitedly told me his brother was the best athlete.  When I asked “How’s that?” his response came as no surprise.  “My dad has more time to play with him now.”

For those parents who can—play with your son or daughter.  For those who cannot, maybe it’s another family member, like an aunt or uncle who can. Or, like Bob Tebow, perhaps there is some element of the game you can share.
Tim Tebow is the youngest of 5 children
I can do all things…
When life gets busy—and it does—it’s natural to consider What obligations can I eliminate?  Sunday mass (or services) shouldn’t be one of them, but unfortunately it is.

Tebow wrote, “Between football, homeschooling and farm labor, I was busy. And when I wasn’t doing any of those things, I was busy at our church. My family attends First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, and I was involved in their plays and youth meetings and activities whenever and as much as possible.  Every Sunday morning we were all there, and the other times in the week were a bit more sporadic, weaving things in with a regular schedule of sports, which was often easier said than done.  But, every Sunday—we were there.”
Always time for prayer and praise.
We are careful to calendar practice and game times, when to lift, team meetings and more.  The same should apply to our faith.  My parish offers Saturday and Sunday vigils.  There are four Sunday morning masses and even a “last chance” mass at 9:00 p.m. in the evening. I think it’s important to recognize how Catholic Church has made concerted efforts to accommodate the demands on our time; athletics is certainly one of them.

Sunday services are important because the spiritual journey isn’t one we walk alone.  We come together to remember Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. In that gathering, we are called to deepen our relationship with the Lord. 

Tebow proclaims St. Paul’s words to the Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  And we need that strength—not only in sports, but also in life: relationships are demanding, humility doesn’t come easy.  We are make the team one year, we are cut the next.

And no one knows that like Tim Tebow. Through his eyes, our God is one who can be known in reading the Bible and seeking to truly live its teachings.  It is affirmed at home, on the field and within a faith community.  I challenge you in your role at school to do the same. 

Photo Credits
Through My Eyes

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