The Author

Refuse to Speak

The college football season began last weekend and my favorite team got off to a rocky start. Favored by six touchdowns over a team that lost eleven games last year, the first half ended with my team leading by only seven points. The underdog had recovered a fumble, intercepted two passes, and kept the ball twice as long as my heroes. It was beginning to look like a long day.

Of course, the game ended as the experts had predicted. The second half saw an explosion of offense on my team’s part. The other team never scored again, and mine (do you like how I think they belong to me?) gained more yards in one game than they had in their over 100 years of playing football. All’s well that ends well, I suppose.

I could not help but wonder what made the difference. Same players, same coaches, same plays. Did the coaches yell and threaten at halftime? Did they all drink some magic potion? The next day’s news articles told the tale.

On his way to the locker room, the coach in charge of that dismal performance pondered what he would say to his charges. Should he yell, scream, reprimand, condemn? Somewhere between the sideline and the locker room door, he decided. Later on, when asked, he said, “I refused to speak fear and failure into their lives. I reminded them of their talent and preparation. And a bunch of mature young men went out and did their jobs.”

“I refused to speak fear and failure into their lives.” How many times have we quit before we have begun? How many times have we told ourselves or someone else that we simply cannot do it – whatever it is? How many times have we snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory? This young coach knew that, win or lose, what they thought and what they did were connected.

All this reminds me of the last few verses of the gospel of Matthew. Jesus is about to leave his disciples and return to the Father. Those followers were a varied group, some of them bold and confident. Matthew does not speak of them. He says that some were doubtful, hesitant. How are they going to survive? What will happen next? Jesus’s words would make all the difference: You’re ready; I’ve prepared you; the world needs you; I am with you. It’s not a stretch to say that he refused to speak words of fear and failure. If Jesus didn’t, why should we?