I grew up in the South, sitting on my dad’s lap watching it played. That could have something to do with my love for football, but there’s more to it than that. For one thing, mastering a sport is not easy. Just watch any junior high team try to connect a pass, or stop a run, or kick a ball between the goal posts. It takes years of training and practice to get it right. The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, speaks to this kind of disciplined effort when she writes in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “The devotion of thought to an honest achievement makes the achievement possible” (p. 199). And this Sunday’s Super Bowl can bring tribute to professionals on the field who make it look all too easy.
We are not naive about the negative elements that can be found in any sport, which are increasingly being penalized and brought into check. But football, at its best, can exemplify a devotion of thought to an honest achievement on the part of the players individually and together as a team. There are many players who openly recognize God as the source of their ability. It’s inspiring to hear their sincerity and humility when they say, in essence, what Jesus said, “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30). “[B]ut with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
My football friend, Doug, had a passion for playing the sport. He played it in high school and college and used it as a training ground where he could not only express the goodness that honors God, but could learn more about Him. He fervently told me, “There were lots of opportunities for spiritual lessons!” One of the biggest areas of challenge was in dealing with sport injuries while training and playing. As a student of Christian Science, Doug took a unique approach to these physical challenges – he prayed.
Prayer in Christian Science includes acknowledging God, good, as the only presence and power. God is understood to be divine Principle, the only cause and condition of all being – of all life. Even though this may sound like a sweeping statement, it can have a powerful application in our lives – as Doug demonstrated. Through his prayers he began to see more clearly, with more inspiration and understanding, that he was the offspring of God, an idea of divine Mind. And he was able to grasp something of the truth that he and each player was a spiritual idea governed by the order and harmony of God, divine Love. They were not mere physical beings that had to suffer inevitable injuries. God’s laws establish everyone as whole and complete because everyone reflects God, Spirit, who is indestructible.
Mrs. Eddy discovered these effective laws of Spirit through her deep, devoted study of the Bible and inspired spiritual healings. She healed many individuals who had suffered from accidents and injuries through her understanding that God’s laws are not random or accidental but the unbreakable and universally provable laws of being. Eventually, she would write in Science and Health, “Accidents are unknown to God, or immortal Mind, and we must leave the mortal basis of belief and unite with the one Mind in order to change the notion of chance to the proper sense of God’s unerring direction and thus bring out harmony. Under divine Providence, there can be no accidents, since there is no room for imperfection in perfection” (p. 424).
The Bible states, “Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8). Doug wanted and needed to draw nigh to the truths about Spirit’s allness and total control. He said he needed to see that he was the reflection of God, good, as the Scriptures explained, and that he could only express the spiritual control and wholeness that God gave. Through this prayerful, scientific approach he was healed of each of his football injuries – contusions, back injuries, and a twisted ankle – and has not suffered any hint or aftereffects through the many years since he played.
We can all turn to God for complete physical healing, and we can be inspired by each of our God-given gifts and our commitment to excellence – during Sunday’s game and elsewhere. With this perspective, I plan on enjoying football at its best! Hope you do, too!