"God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you helped His people and continue to help them." Hebrews 6:10
Most people firmly believe that there is no more rewarding career than professional sports. Many athletes will make moremoney in one year than the average person will see in a lifetime. In fact, to most people it seems that these incredibly gifted individuals are paid to have fun. And yet, we have entered in to that time of year when heroes are quickly forgotten and even cast aside. The journey from the top of the mountain to the valley of the off-season is far and deep.
Over the past season in the NHL, this column has brought to light several Red Wings players who seemed to rise above when the moment was critical. This started in the pre-season with articles about Chris Osgood http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-20894-Detroit-Methodist-Examiner~y2009m9d16-Scenes-from-training-camp-part-I--an-autograph and Pavel Datsyuk http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-20894-Detroit-Methodist-Examiner~y2009m9d17-Scenes-from-training-camp-part-II--Pavel-Datsyuk . Later in the year, we took a look at Todd Bertuzzi http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-20894-Detroit-Methodist-Examiner~y2010m3d19-On-a-Wing-and-a-prayer . We will turn once again to Todd Bertuzzi and Chris Osgood.
At the end of this past regular season, Todd was in the top 5 of the categories of goals, assists and overall points. The post season saw Todd accumulate one goal and 4 assists in a single night, combining for a career high 5 points. He played his was through ups and downs, and ended up carrying the team with overtime winners and shootout goals in the latter part of 2009. At the end of the regular season, it was clear that Todd had the charisma and character to re-define his role as needed for the benefit of the team. However, as time moves on, NHL analysts have begun to second guess Todd's value. It is amazing how much difference a month can make.
Next on the list is Chris Osgood. At the end of the 2009 Stanley Cup, most talk centered around his induction into the hall of fame, his possible win of the Con Smythe for most valuable player in the playoffs, and his super-human ability to overcome and get the job done. Now, many have put Chris on the shelf as a back-up, at best. Ozzie has also transformed himself throughout his career and been the starting goal tender for two Stanley Cups, as well as backup for a third. It is incredibly dangerous to write him off, because that is when he plays his best. All of this criticism will make an interesting speech at his Hall of Fame induction.
The truth, friends, is that we all face this kind of pain. Many of us, on some level or another, will go from being praised to being punished. The memory of the masses is always short, and most often negative. That is, no matter how much good you accomplish, there will always be someone there to knock you down. That is where the verse from Hebrews comes into play. God's memory is not so short. He truly remembers us as we are. All of us, sinners in need of grace, fall incredibly short of the standard of perfection. God found a way to bridge that gap to us, and calls us blessed. We are not held hostage by our mistakes in His eyes when we are forgiven. We are, simply put, made perfect by His grace. What an amazing place to be.
If you feel weighed down by criticism or past failure today, you are not alone. In fact, that is one thing that we all have in common. We can be set free from all of that pain and hurt in a moment. However, be careful to extend that grace. When you see the criticisms of those in the media lens, remember that they have the same problems and hurts that we all have. The only difference is that they are very seldom permitted the kind of privacy we are allowed. They have to deal with their pain in front of millions. That, friends, is a high price for anyone to pay.
Be blessed as you face a new day. There is forgiveness and strength that never fails waiting for you with each prayer. Our value in God's eyes never deteriorates, no matter how quickly others will cast us aside. As for Todd and Ozzie, remember this. When the smoke clears, you do not want to be playing against them. They both have too much heart and character to let people's criticisms fall idly by the wayside. They will be champions again tomorrow. Please tune in again next week as we continue to share in this great gift called life. Until then, God bless and keep reading.