We drove through Cincinnati for the first time two weeks ago. Around a deep curve on I75 north, boom, there it was, a lovely city across the Ohio River. It kind of sneaks up on you coming from that direction. So because we had so recently waved to the Bengal’s stadium from our north-bound CRV, we watched the Bengals/Steelers game Saturday with a tad more interest than we normally would have. And then a tad more.
I’ve been thinking about Vontaze Burfict ever since.
First, a word to his mother. A mother’s worst nightmare is for the whole world to be mad at her child. I think that might kill me. So my first thought is for you, Vontaze’s mother. There is a place to take the sorrow in your heart when you see repeated evidence of the rage in his. You know the reasons for his rage. You lived them. Take your sorrow and your son’s rage to Jesus. Jesus wants you. And He wants Vontaze too. And only He can protect you from the world’s razor-sharp condemnation. Anyway, you’ve got a friend in me, to quote the song.
Second, they don’t all give in to rage. Obviously. And those who do don’t have to stay there. My prayer is that someday Vontaze will be featured in a lengthy Sports Illustrated article recounting how his actions Saturday weren’t just gamechangers for a Bengal’s loss, but far more important (No, Cincinnati, your loss is not as important as a man’s soul) were gamechangers for his life’s gain. I hope someone – Tom, you up to this? – will sit with him as long as it takes and tell him that he has a heavenly father who loves him so much, unlike his earthly one, and that the hatred he is hearing from the world is a beckoning from the One who knows how that feels. With one difference. That One was perfect. He did nothing to earn the hatred. The other is Burfict. And he did.
Perhaps someone has told him that. A grandmother? A coach? A team chaplain? Well, he didn’t hear it, so I will tell him again.
Vontaze, are you listening? The videos of all your hits are hard to watch. They make us angry because they ruin sports and ruin people. But I can’t hate you because when I watch your clips, I see me – someone in desperate need of grace. I see Burfict who needs Perfect. I need Perfect too, and when He offered himself to me at my fork in the road, all I did was say yes. That’s it. So if you can soften for one minute, the One who loves your soul stands ready to declare you perfect and then to spend a lifetime making you a new man. Gamechanged.