Tebow, Lin and the Dragonslayer
- Thursday, February 23, 2012
God has been getting a lot of attention from the press lately, thanks to post-game interviews with two of today's hottest athletes: Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin. These two have dazzled and amazed fans, spectators and the press, and then have given God all the glory afterward. Some in the media criticize them for placing too much emphasis on their faith, while others are thankful to see a couple of good role models for our youth today.
However, the God-in-the-media craze actually began several months before Lin-sanity swept the nation or before Tim started "Tebowing" on the sideline. It began with a contestant on the hit reality show "Survivor" by the name of Benjamin "Coach" Wade. The self-proclaimed "Dragonslayer," who spent three seasons on the show, led his team in prayer before challenges and often was seen on the beaches in prayer or meditation; but his demonstrations of faith usually came across as simply a self-serving means to manipulate weaker players and get himself further in the game. I remember lamenting many times that people such as Coach shouldn't be on television because they give Christians a bad name.
I'm glad so many more people are paying attention to Tebow and Lin and that we're not left with Coach as the poster-boy for Christians in the media. Coach had all the right words to say, but his actions were most often contrary to those words. Unlike the "Dragonslayer," Tebow and Lin have earned the right to be heard by achieving excellence in their respective arenas before opening their mouths about their faith.
What's interesting about Tebow and especially Lin is that no one really cared about either of them until they started showing up on the weekly ESPN highlight reels. As a result of hard work and discipline in their respective sports, both had successful high school and college careers, but garnered little attention compared to what they now receive. It wasn't until they led their teams on remarkable winning streaks with amazing demonstrations of athletic skill that the press started sticking microphones in their faces.
There's an important lesson to be learned here, one that we need to pass on to the youth in our charge: We need to earn the right to be heard. Sure, we have the words that bring eternal life, but we can't expect people to line up pay attention to us. We have to earn their attention.
How do we do that (and teach our students to do it)? So glad you asked.
We earn the right to be heard by being excellent. By excelling in whatever we are good at, we earn others' respect and win their attention. Unfortunately, excellence takes a lot of hard work, long hours and disciplined choices. Lin and Tebow played four years of high school sports, then played four years of college sports, then were back-ups and benchwarmers before getting their turns in the spotlight. They seem to have burst suddenly onto the scene, but there was a lot of blood, sweat and tears preceding those bursts. They unquestionably earned every bit of respect, attention and hype they have received lately through their years of hard work and dedication.
As youth leaders, we need to pursue excellence in all we do; but equally important, we need to push our youth toward excellence. We need to help them discover their gifts, talents and passions; and we need to help instill in them the work ethic needed to excel. We need to encourage them along the way and cheer them on when no one else seems to notice. If they are dedicated to excellence, their time to shine will come. They may never find themselves on the national stage or on the ESPN highlight reel, but someone eventually will take notice. Someone will listen.
When people do start listening, it's important that we—and our youth—have something to say that is worth hearing. Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin have proven that famous athletes can have something important to say. They are keeping things in perspective; it's not just about touchdowns and free throws. They are reminding us there are more important things in life.
So when the microphone is placed in front of us, and the world is our captive audience, what will we say?
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