It happened the last week in June. After being promoted from the low-A minors to the high-A league, Tim Tebow homered in game one with his new teammates. And I, for one, was jumping for joy, watching the ESPN replay, while simultaneously making mental predictions of how many weeks it would be before this superstar made it to the bigs.
You remember him, right? He won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 as a Florida Gator and went on to play professional football for a few years. If that doesn’t ring a bell, maybe this will help. Tim Tebow became known for something called “Tebowing”—a type of kneeling in the end zone while he took a few seconds to praise God after scoring a touchdown. And yes. Now the quarterback is playing baseball.
I had the privilege of hearing Tim Tebow speak at an assembly not long ago and I was blown away. Not because I was in the presence of a great athlete, but because he was standing on a stage talking about his life as a Christian and sharing his love for Jesus in front of complete strangers. It wasn’t a publicity stunt or an attempt to sell a brand. It was an honest calling, and what he said that night was life changing for the fans in the audience, myself included.
Part of Tim’s message that evening was about his time in the Philippines when he was young and his parents were missionaries. Tim shared that he remembers meeting a young boy who had been born with his legs and feet facing back, instead of forward. In order to be mobile, this boy had to be carried by his friends. When Tim met a group of the boy’s friends, they led him over to the crippled child. He talked to the youngster about God and assured him that even though he was not able to walk in this world, someday he would be able to run with Jesus in Heaven.
And there I sat. Tears flowing freely and feeling so thankful I had decided to attend this function and was allowed the opportunity to hear this truth. But I was even more grateful for the company that I had invited to come along with me. Sitting just to my left was my paralyzed son, in the wheelchair he was now bound to, after a car accident. The same promise Tim had made to that disabled boy in the Philippines was our promise as well. I know in my heart God put us in that crowd to hear Tim’s message about that physically challenged child.
In the months since I attended that event, I have seen Tim on television and on social media countless times. For a while he hosted a segment on Good Morning America in which he shared inspirational stories with the viewers. Another time I read he had created a foundation to help people who are in need. Recently, I read a report on the internet about him praying with a family on an airplane, after the family’s loved one suffered a medical emergency during a flight. And this past March, he sent a video message to the youth attending Going Bananas for Jesus, reminding them that they are wonderfully made. Talk about using your celebrity platform to do good work!
Unfortunately, not every athlete makes the news for a good purpose. It breaks my heart when reports of drug and alcohol dependency, physical abuse, assault, rape, and even, murder snag the headline, rather than the athlete’s talent. That feeling of being on top of the world, sometimes leads to a feeling of entitlement. A feeling these professionals can get away with the bad stuff.
Our children need good guys in football pads. They need positive role models wearing baseball uniforms. They need Christian athletes worthy of respect and the whispered words of a 7-year-old glued to the television–“I want to be just like him.”
Our children’s lives revolve around sports. They have no “off season.” They go from one sport to the next, all through the school year, and practice during the summer. Just as sports dominate our children’s lives, professional athletes dominate today’s culture. Their faces are on billboards, cereal boxes and music videos. Their names are on everything, including restaurants, sports drinks, and even across the back of your child’s shirt. If I had to choose which of these athletes I wanted influencing my children, I would skip the one promising the ability to make more jump shots with his latest pair of sneakers, and choose the one that is reminding us of God’s promise of an eternal life in Heaven, with the numbers 3:16 carefully drawn into his eye black.
Our children need Tim Tebow.