Improbable Wins

If you happened to catch the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers last Sunday in the NFC Championship, you would have witnessed an historic victory. After trailing 0-16 in the first half, the Seahawks won in overtime 28-22 on a 35-yard TD pass from Wilson to Jermaine Kearse, the largest deficit overcome in a conference title game,. It inspired me to wonder what improbable victories lay before me.

The Packers dominated the first half. Aaron Rodgers led his team down the field to score two field goals and then a touchdown, all in the first quarter. In the second, he led his team to another field goal to make it 16-0. Meanwhile, the Seahawks turned the ball over four times, three of them interceptions thrown by Russell Wilson intended for Jermaine Kearse. The Seahawks went into the locker room at halftime, and there was a feeling that the Super Bowl was slipping away.

Isn’t our day like that sometimes? Or our season? Maybe it’s been a whole year where we feel down. The game has walloped us so cruelly that it feels we can do nothing right. We’re outperformed at work and are inadequate at home. We ache to feel joy. On days like that our passion for life is gone. Our friendships are in jeopardy. Our families don’t understand.

But it is in that time when the very thing that drives us into the ground, is driving us to our foundation. It is on that rock where we stand. We may play games where we lose, fall short, fail, make mistakes, embarrass ourselves or worse, others. But there comes a moment when we realize we’re stronger than the oppression. Simply, stronger.

You and I may feel a bully on our backs nipping critical lies at our lobes. Let them. Those bullies are destined for oblivion. Their lies will go with them. But you and I, true sports, true Coach’s sons and daughters, are gifted with the skills and graces and talents to soar not in our own power, but propelled upward by Him. His rock springs us heavenward.

In the first half of the NFC Championship, nothing went right for the Seahawks. In the second half, everything did. With 4:44 left in the third quarter Jon Ryan, the punter, setting up for a field goal, faked it and threw a touchdown pass to make it 7-16, the first touchdown pass thrown by a punter in NFL playoff history.

With 2:09 remaining in the fourth, the Seahawks scored again to make it 14-19. Their subsequent onside kick bounced off the facemask of a Packer, and they recovered it, leading to another score and a two point conversion thrown by Wilson, which was lofted so high it was a miracle that it wasn’t intercepted. They went ahead 22-19.

In overtime Russell Wilson, after throwing four interceptions in regulation, pitched a perfect 35-yard strike down the middle of the field to Jermaine Kearse for  the game-winning touchdown. Seahawks won 28-22.

After the game, Wilson told a reporter, “The will and the drive of these men is unbelievable. We always find a way to finish.”

Great job, Seahawks! Way to battle, even when it was improbable, even when a win seemed impossible. Way to go!

Life is unbelievable so much of the time. It’s very difficult for me some days to get out of bed and go to work, thinking in the back of my mind about all the horrible atrocities our society encounters on a daily basis. It makes me pause to wonder if good is winning the fight, when it seems so improbable that it is.

But of course it is.

God has never lost. He never will lose. He always wins. Not from our understanding of how a football team might win, but on a field much deeper and much more spiritual. God’s victory is to claim you and me out of this terrible, harsh world. Your spirit and mine are so valuable to Him that He coached His team (Jesus) through the most painful of victories. Jesus lost nothing on the cross, because He gained you and me. And we are His, forever.

Sport is beautiful because it reflects God’s heart. Whether a team wins or loses, it’s the refinement, the testing of the game that matters. Sport drives us to excellence beyond our boundaries, to help us achieve in a dream that is God-sized.

If your team wins, as the Seahawks won, you might celebrate at how improbable that victory was. If your Packers lost, well, it stings, but over time there’s a sweet reward in it. Sometimes that reward is the very best thing you could hope to discover, far better than a gridiron win.

So now that Super Bowl 49 is at hand. It is to be played on February 1 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. I’m hoping, not predicting, for a good game. I hope the Seahawks play well, and the Patriots, too. And maybe in my own little private Super Bowl I’ll discover my Coach is setting me up for an improbable win of my own. We are meant for glory.

“For with God nothing will be impossible.” ~ Luke 1:37


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