Friday, January 28, 2011
God and Auburn
I’ve known for years that God was an Auburn fan.
I knew it from the moment I first walked on the campus and knew I had found a place, where for the first time in a long time, that I belonged. Auburn is a special place surely God must have blessed it!
Auburn is the place where I not only earned my Bachelor’s degree, but where I learned that when you fall down (that is fail a class), you pick yourself up and go on. Auburn was the place where I made some of the greatest mistakes of my life, but discovered that good friends will love you anyway, help you get back up when you fall, and walk with you as you move forward. Auburn is where I learned to be a good loser. (Growing up a University of Texas and Dallas Cowboy fan in the 1970s didn’t teach me much about that.) I learned perseverance. I learned the value of community. And I learned the true joy of winning when, in my senior year and the last Iron Bowl I marched in, we beat Bema for the first time in 10 years. Auburn is where I truly fell in love with my husband. And Auburn is where I entrusted my oldest child when he left us to stretch his wings and fly.
When I think of Auburn, I think of the beauty of the arboretum, the warmth of the sun, squirrels scampering as you walk, the majesty of the football traditions, the joy of swinging my body and yelling “War Eagle” as the band takes the field, and the beauty of Toomer’s Corner covered in—of all things—toilet paper. I think of a large diverse family who is “all in.” I remember being in Maryland washing clothes when a young soldier saw my Auburn t-shirt, grabbed me and practically yelled, “You’re from Auburn! I’m from Auburn too!”
God must be an Auburn fan!
So it doesn’t surprise me that Rick and Bubba, Gene Chizik, Cam Newton, Wes Byrum, and Neil Caudle share that news with the world! And that 19, 19, 19 thing—gotta admit that is pretty cool!
But seriously folks, do you really think God is coaching ball games from on high? Do you really think that God prefers Auburn over Oregon (although goodness knows those green socks were enough to annoy anyone—even God!). Or even (as much as I would love this to be true) that this year God preferred Auburn to Alabama?!
I greatly respect Chizik, his players as well as the team chaplain, Chette Williams. One of the reasons I am proud of our team is the deep faith that appears to be a vital part of their culture. However, I get heartburn every time Chizik claims a victory on the football field for God.
I strongly believe that we should all acknowledge God as the source of whatever gifts we possess, whether that be the ability to throw a football, coach a game, solve a math problem, or comfort someone who mourns. I believe we should ask God to bless all our endeavors so that others can be blessed. I believe we should publicly acknowledge our faith and our God.
But I don’t believe God is in the business of fixing ball games!
God is not a cosmic vending machine where we put in the proper amount of prayer, religious devotion, and good living and out pops the thing we most want—be it winning a championship game, finding the perfect job or spouse, or a miraculous healing of a disease. As many faithful people can attest, God does not always answer prayers in the way we would like them answered! Sometimes the prayers are answered and sometimes they are not. But neither is God a cosmic slot machine where we put in prayer, religious devotion and good living and pull the lever hoping that maybe this time it will pay out.
God is not in the business of doing our bidding, but rather God is in the business of bidding us to do.
Granted there are those who would claim that someone might be inspired to go to church or to pray as a result of knowing God assured Auburn a victory because of the faithfulness of their coach and players. But if our goal is to make disciples of Jesus so they can share that faith with others and bring a taste of the kingdom of God to earth, then this is bait and switch. God blesses us not so we can be personally successful but so we can bless others. And Jesus called disciples not to win championship games, but to pick up our cross and follow him.
Yes, I believe God is an Auburn fan, but God is also an Oregon fan . . . and, as much as it pains me to say it, God is even a Bama fan. God loves the world and God calls us to love it to. And those who feel they are blessed by God should always remember that God’s blessing is not for their benefit but for the benefit of the broken, hurting world God so loves.