Three Remarkable Words Inscribed on My Super Bowl Ring
As a youth growing up in the 1950s, I loved playing football. I could catch passes well enough in high school to interest a few schools like the University of Tennessee, the University of Kentucky and Georgia Tech. But it was the head coach at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA that caught my attention when he said to me, “We want you to play football with us, and we want to make sure you get a good, solid college education.” That’s what I wanted.
My first season with Green Bay, we went 10-3-1 and beat the Cleveland Browns for NFL championship. The next year we beat Dallas for the NFL title and beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the first-ever Super Bol. The following season, it all came down to one historic play, when Jerry Kramer made his infamous block that allowing Bart Starr to nose the ball across the goal line defeat the Cowboys for the NFL title.
We were one win away from a third consecutive world championship. By now, we knew what was coming from Coach Lombardi. Throughout our practices and the post-season playoffs he had mastered “the speech”:
After the game, which we won 33-14 over the Oakland Raiders, I went home, and searched in my Bible and found the words Lombardi talked about:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable (1 Corinthians 9:24).
I re-read these words. They were not new to me:
As a wide receiver, I had spent countless hours and weeks and months running pass patterns. I ran to win. And our team, the world champion Green Bay Packers, won the prize. A bronze trophy, what Paul calls “a perishable wreath.”
Yet, when I was 13 years old, I discovered something imperishable, something that will never dry up, die, or ever be taken away from me. It something I didn’t earn or deserve. It has nothing to do with my talent to catch a football. It’s something I share in common with some of my former Green Bay Packer teammates. Something that has endured and increased over the years, well beyond our playing days.
This something I’m talking about is the knowledge that I am accepted and loved unconditionally by the one true God. He created the heavens and the earth. He created you and me. He came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, the human form of the invisible God.
How can a holy, perfect, all-knowing, infinite God ever possibly relate to me, an imperfect, finite, flawed human being? How could he possibly accept me? How could he accept you? What could he possibly do to bridge the gap and reconcile our messy, sin-sick nature to holy, infinite love?
A few years ago, my youngest three-year-old grandson was diagnosed with Fanconi Anemia, a disease that stunted his growth and soon threatened his existence. To live, he needed bone marrow, one person to give him what he couldn’t give himself. After much prayer, and waiting, a donor was found: his mother, who is my daughter. Her love is so great for her boy that she knew she would do anything, give anything, for him to live.
God loves you, and he loves me, so much that God chose to sacrifice his own Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross. Three days later, the greatest victory in history took place: Jesus defeated death.
Faith simply means believing that Christ’s death brought about your spiritual death and that means that you now share his resurrected life. A life in which you can receive and extend to other God’s unconditional acceptance and love.
What’s a perishable wreath that athletes still run to win? Answer: The Super Bowl trophy.
Imagine waking up tomorrow, knowing that you have received the imperishable gift of God’s love in Jesus Christ every day for the rest of your life?
Is there any reason that would cause you to say, “I don’t think so, this unconditional love is not for me”?
What would you like to tell God? Consider what you’ve just read, and then consider the One who loves you, wherever you’re at. The greatest love you will ever know in this life, and in eternity is waiting for you when you run to Him.