I'm not a huge Tom Brady fan. Not because I don't like him personally or anything, but more so because I'm a Steelers fan and he has beaten my team more times than I'd like to count. But, after the news of his suspension this evening, if I had a chance to go to Starbucks with Tom Brady and sit down eye-to-eye with him, this is probably what I would say ...
Wow, what a day, huh. Thanks for buying, by the way. Anyway, ever since "deflategate" has entered the news and the Wells report has made headlines, I have seen and heard so many things said about you. Most haven't been ... well ... shall we say very nice. You've been called a liar and a cheater. I guess I just want you to know that I am those things too. I know you're busy and we don't have much time right now, but if we did have time, I could tell you about cheating on a chemistry test in college. I could also tell you about a time I lied to a police officer in college. As you can see, those college years probably weren't my best. I lied to the police officer because I was trying to get out of a ticket. But, I cheated on the chemistry test because I was trying to get a higher grade that I wasn't able to get on my own. I know the pressure you feel and the pressure I felt are on completely different levels, but I really needed that grade and I compromised my character for it.
I think that's what happens when we get caught in the trap of proving ourselves or finding our worth and value in our performance. I used to live in that world ... again, on a totally different level because I've never felt the pressure of being an NFL quarterback. But, I used to make my home in a world based on my performance because I felt like it just made me a better man. And, in all honesty, I felt like it made me more acceptable to God. If I could just prove myself to Him by doing this and doing that and checking this off the list and that off the list, then maybe I'd prove myself worthy to God. Maybe he would like me more and, if He likes me more, maybe I can feel better about myself. Seriously, after all He's done for me, can't I just do more and more for Him? Makes sense, right? But, I think I was also trying to prove myself worthy to myself. I found a need to prove myself to others and to live by standards being set for me instead of by me. I found my life was becoming a list of duties to perform because I felt like if my "performance" was good enough, then I would be good enough. It's an easy trap to fall in to, especially for us men. I mean, we gain such worth from what we do and from the accolades we receive. It's so easy to get caught up in it all and feel the more we do the better we are ... the more I win the more of a winner I am. So, if you did cheat, I can understand why. I'm not saying it's right. I'm just saying I could see why you would do it.
And, so I found myself living in a world that was either "do, do, do" or "don't, don't, don't." As long as I was "doing, doing, doing" things were OK. But, if I was "don'ting, don'ting, don'ting" ... well, let's just say I found myself obsessing over how much I should be doing and obsessing over my need to get better. But, the more I did that, the worse I actually became. The problem is that it always had me thinking about me. Making behavior the point always caused me to point my finger toward me and my behavior. It also caused me to point my finger at others and their behavior. "Their behavior is not measuring up and I can point to exactly where it isn't!" It made it really easy to set myself in the seat of the "judge." I found that it's not a seat for which I'm very well suited.
It's such a strange thing, though, Tom, because it's not like wanting to perform well is a bad thing. Wanting to win isn't bad either (unless you're playing my Steelers). It can truly be a mark of character to want to perform well and give your best. There's nothing wrong with more good behavior and less bad behavior. The only problem is that when I focus on my behavior or my performance, I'm less prone to focus on ... well ... Jesus.
I know you probably don't want me to get all "churchy" on you, but can I just tell you that I have been able to move from a world that was based on my behavior and performance to a world that is based on God's grace. Grace really is a beautiful thing. I heard someone say it like this once: "Most people in the world today believe that if there is a god, you relate to Him with your behavior. Most religions are based on that principle. It may look different, but when you sift through all of the variations, the basic idea is 'If I can just do enough good things and stay away from enough bad things, I'm accepted.' Yet, Jesus is not only different from that, He's diametrically opposed to it!" There are no conditions with Jesus. There are no hoops to jump through. You don't have to prove yourself worthy in any way. The truth is you're not and you never will be. Neither will I! The only difference between you and me is that your "failure" is out there for everyone to see because you're Tom Brady. But, you're failure is no worse than mine ... it's just a bit more public. But, if my failures were shown on the big screen ... oh my. I'd be judged pretty harshly too. But, that's where grace comes in. You see, grace tells me that "I am more sinful and flawed than I would ever dare to admit ... but at the same time, I am also more loved and accepted by Jesus than I would ever dare hope." Grace took me out of a world driven by my behavior and what I felt I should do and in to a world driven by God's love and what He has done. I no longer feel a need to perform in an effort to feel better about myself, but I now find that I feel better about myself because I don't have to perform! All the love and acceptance that I could ever hope for is found in Jesus. I have found that His faithfulness to me is not based on what I do, but rather on what He has done. I am now a child of the King! There is royal blood flowing through these veins. Someone said it like this and this is what I have found to be true in my life as well: "The more I believe I am who God says I am, the more I act like who God says I am. How we behave overwhelmingly flows from what we deeply believe." My desire to live in a certain way is no longer performance driven but rather belief driven. And, wow, what a freeing way to live it is.
Tom, nothing, absolutely nothing has had a greater impact on my life and the way I live than the grace of Jesus and believing that I am who He says I am. Absolutely nothing. I have been chosen by God and favored by God because of Jesus and Jesus alone. Once I got that, nothing has ever been the same.
Please don't let your performance define you and please don't let this failure define you either. Let Jesus and His grace define you and nothing will ever be the same.