How do you measure success? Is it reaching a set of goals professionally, gaining wealth, or enjoying the fame and respect of a pro athlete? Allow me to share my story.
I grew up in Wisconsin, the youngest and only boy of 5 children. In my first conscionable moments, I realized I had 4 older sisters and no brothers! For over a decade, my clothes were literally girl hand-me-downs! I often escaped to my bedroom where a lone picture frame held a quote from Teddy Roosevelt that would define my future… “In life, as in football… Hit The Line Hard!” In 9th grade, I put on my first helmet. As a Junior, I became the 1st string inside linebacker and defensive captain for the Fort Atkinson Varsity football team while playing 1st chair French horn for the concert band. I was a good kid, from a good family and from that day onward, in life as in football, I “Hit The Line Hard”.
In my senior year of high school, I was recruited and offered a half football scholarship to Western Michigan University. I chose the scholarship to help my family. Putting five kids through college was no easy task for my parents. This decision would alter my life beyond finances. By my first game, I was a starting inside linebacker and defensive captain under Coach Jack Harbaugh. The crucible of performance began to heat up, my success on the field became my measurement of significance. I was no longer just the good kid from Fort Atkinson; I needed to be what fans expected, players respected, and coaches depended on to provide victory. But, in my mind, I was the same small-town Wisconsin kid who savored family and cherished for meaning apart from what I did.
It was with this perspective, that I attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes and CRU joint meeting my Freshman year and learned about an unconditional love and relationship available through Jesus Christ. I realized that my success did not define my significance. Regardless of my performance, I was valued by the God who created me in His image and wanted a relationship with me through Jesus.
The inside linebacker who grew up with 4 older sisters, played the French horn and was recruited as a walk-on, finished his 4-year career at Western Michigan as the all-time college tackle leader and was selected in the second round of the 1986 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins. I went on to win NFL Defensive Rookie-Of-The-Year and become a five-time Pro-Bowl Bowl Linebacker playing alongside Dan Marino and captaining the defense under legendary coach Don Shula.
Over the years, I’ve become a respected member of my community. This may surprise you, but even a successful football and business career with money, fame and pleasure does not instill a daily heartfelt contentment nor provide hope for the future. Success is not what you do, what you own, or what others think of you. My definition of success is living a life surrendered to Christ, and focused on serving others that brings real meaning.
Think about it. Everything that this life has to offer, is temporary---your possessions, your reputation, and accomplishments. Though death is inevitable for all, few people prepare for life after death. Do you know, not hope, that you will spend eternity in heaven?
It is my desire for you to realize that God loves you unconditionally, regardless of your past and that He created you to know Him personally through Jesus Christ. You can start your relationship with Him today by accepting God’s love and the sacrifice Jesus made when He died on the cross to cover every mistake you’ve ever made or will make. No one can ever be enough or do enough in this life to be granted entrance into heaven. Your relationship begins by admitting your need for forgiveness and accepting it from the One who gave His life to pay for it and surrendering your life to His control. Forgiveness is available nowhere else.
The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal LIFE.” (John 3:16)
“In LIFE, as in football, Hit The Line Hard!”