With that title I show that my 1 ½-year assimilation to the earthy culture of Western PA is complete: I LOVE the Steelers. Whatever else those three little diamonds stand for, they denote the twinkle all Pittsburghers get in their eyes when someone yells, “Steelers!” –Especially riding as we are the crest of the team’s hard-earned wins to this week’s Super Bowl.
I also show by the title that I have joined the shameless group of people who glimpse metaphors for life in athletics.
This week I received from my daughter a gift of my first-ever football jersey: #43 Steelers, Troy Polamalu. Long black curly hair flying, this lithe defensive safety zooms into any melee, wherever the melee happens to be. He’s everywhere, fast. –And did I say it already?—hair flying.
In perhaps the hardest game of the playoffs, against the Indianapolis Colts, in a critical play, hair-flying Troy bulleted out of nowhere, leaped, and intercepted a pass. He fell as he landed, and of course got up and started running. But the ball came loose. It was called, at first, an interception. The Colts contested the play. The refs reviewed it. We all waited, analyzing repeated replays. The refs overturned the decision, calling it an incomplete pass. The Colts resumed their offense, and hair-flying Troy quietly went back to his job.
The Steelers won the game anyway. And midweek, the NFL apologized for the mistaken call.
I may have a Polamalu shirt, but I am a wimp. I have spent my life giving way to fear, fearful of saying what I think is right when others stronger than me disagree. Over the years, I think I have as a result lost an inner sense of truth (“in the inward parts,” Psalm 51; the belt around the waist (not the head) in God’s armor, Ephesians 6).
The epistle of 1 Peter is about how the believer comports him- or herself when the authorities in question don’t exactly rule in the believer’s favor: do what is right without fear, it says, committing yourself and the outcomes to God. In this, follow Jesus’ example: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered. He made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (2:23)
I think people read this and mistakenly conclude that the submission to which we are called means quietly acquiescing. Anyway, I used to think that. But this misses the glaring unspoken reality: Jesus may have been quiet; he did not recant. He silently did the right thing. His submission was the farthest thing from compliance. His quiet act was totally subversive, and our souls’ only hope in salvation.
Do what is right and do not give way to fear. Hair-flying Troy; blood-besmirched Jesus. Neither of them contested the ruling (this time!), but left it to others to judge. The point is that I am summoned to this model of courageous comportment.
I am called to preparation, and to courage. I am called to right action and truthful speaking, inside and out. I am called to the often impenetrable task of figuring out what the right thing to do is. I am called to stand firm, patiently, when it nets others’ misunderstanding and my suffering. I am called to entrust myself to him who judges justly. I am called to be like Jesus, and at least with respect to this one famous play, to be like hair-flying #43.
Where is the gospel in this apparent moralism? “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (5:10). And “cast all anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (5:7) The tiny step of a timid 52-year-old is shot through with the present grace and power of Jesus. And while the Steelers victory was never assured (despite the enthusiastic claims of Steeler fans); the victory of the Just Judge is.
At the Super Bowl, watch for a hair-flying window on Jesus. And take to heart the reminder to follow in the steps of the Savior.
© 2006, Esther Meek.