Everything matters. Until it doesn’t.
And until we realize it doesn’t.
In the sports moment that stunned the country Monday night, there was an embedded, sobering hope.
Here was a 24 year old young man, doing what he loves to do, with all the lights and cameras and jeers and cheers that accompany NFL prime time, cushioning the context of what we thought would simply be another, highly competitive, standings-significant game.
Except it wasn’t.
In the middle of Ohio’s Queen City gridiron, a young man lie motionless, experiencing cardiac arrest on the field. This was no longer a game.
Buffalo Bills Damar Hamlin was fighting for his life. At time of this posting, he remains in critical condition in a Cincinnati hospital, still fighting.
But something happened to us the moment Hamlin fell. It’s as if we realized we needed to make the most important, the most important.
The players realized that. The coaches realized it. At some point the NFL realized it. They stopped the game. They knew — however shocked into knowing it happened — that playing this game, one that has major playoff implications with only a week in the regular season left, was far, far secondary to what was happening to the heart of Damar Hamlin… and to all those that surrounded him… his Buffalo teammates… his Cincinnati opponents… the fans in the stands… and all of us watching on TV.
There were no opponents this night, friends. And we were shocked into realizing it.
And so soberly sitting at my keyboard, I can’t help but ask the bigger question: what’s it going to take to shock us?
What’s going to have to happen for us to realize what’s most important? … that we don’t have all these opponents? … these people we have decided are our enemies? … that we have to fight — maybe even hate, but definitely look down upon?
Pick your passion. Pick your issue. Make it a hard one. Make it really emotionally burdensome, taxing… Make it about abortion, immigration, econ, LGBTQ rights, Democrats, Republicans, the dwindling fan clubs of Joe Biden or Donald Trump… do we realize the person who thinks differently than us is actually not our opponent? Do we realize that each of us has come to the place where we believe what we believe, prefer what we prefer, and are convicted about what we’re convicted about because of the unique experiences we each have had? … and those experiences are not the same? Do we realize that any of us who claim to be on the so-called “right side of history” are simply using that to elevate our beliefs, preferences and convictions over another so that we can actually delegitimize their experience and treat them as an opponent?
What’s it going to take to shock us into realizing what’s most important?
Monday night, the scene, reaction and social media were somberly hopeful. We collectively knew what was most important; we realized this opponent mindset is a humanly crafted ideology designed to elevate self and delegitimize others. We needed help and we knew were to get it from. There were countless calls for thoughts and prayers. There were no questions about the need for them. What was most evident were the masses who imagined what the prayers of a whole nation could do.
Prayers are not mindless nor absent of direction. They have a direct object — one worthy of praise, who listens and responds, who hears the chorus that arises from far more than any stadium. We may not always see God or sense His presence, but it doesn’t change His existence nor our need for Him. On Monday night, in an instant elimination of the opponent mindset, we knew that. He created us. In His image. And is here to help us now. That’s whether we see Him or sense Him or know Him or not. For all people. All beliefs, preferences, and convictions, too.
If we realized that foundational reality, maybe it would remove the venom from our debates. Maybe it would turn the debates into solution-oriented discussion, passionate as they still may be. But most of all, maybe it would make us realize that the person on the other side of the “field” has never been our opponent. There is something bigger, deeper, that will always mean incredibly much more.
That’s the somber yet hopeful realization that happened on the football field Monday night in Cincinnati. May it happen within each of us, too.