Twelve seconds and it was over. The ball was snapped, it flew over the quarterback’s head, and the rest of the game was downhill, at least for the Denver Broncos. This is a description of what happened at the very beginning of Super Bowl XLVIII. Twenty-one weeks of hard, grinding, body damaging work, came down to the first twelve seconds of the biggest game of the year. Many sports commentators who know star quarterback Peyton Manning say that he never recovered from the opening snap. And, if you don’t follow sports, his team lost the game to the Seattle Seahawks, 8 to 40-something.
In his book, Play It as It Lies: Golf and the Spiritual Life, author Mike Linder says that one thing that all top notch professional athletes have is the ability to forget and move on. For instance, when a non-professional golfer hits the ball poorly and loses it in the tall grass he or she might get frustrated. And, if it happens again, more frustration might ensue that ruins the rest of the round. Now that is something about golf that I do know about – getting frustrated! But professional golfers seem to be able to forget the last swing, tee up again, and hit a perfect ball straight down the fairway. Maybe what I think I am seeing is not what actually happens but they sure seem to recover fast compared to me.
Now I don’t know if Peyton Manning really lost the game in the first twelve seconds. My guess is that he didn’t because he is an elite athlete. Nevertheless, I’ll leave the second guessing up to the analysts. But, I do know about making mistakes and not recovering. I played a solo in my high school jazz band and missed a pretty good run. It shook me and I didn’t recover during the rest of the song. I felt as if I’d let the band, and myself, down. Disappointment is a feeling that is hard to shake. So much so that despite all the sets that I played over the years, I still remember that feeling. Perhaps that is why I’m not a professional musician.
This is the one area where I think Jesus and us have a disconnect. Nowhere is it recorded that he made a mistake. In fact, Scripture tells us that he was perfect, unblemished. Maybe that is why he told us to “be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” (Mt 5:48) As someone in our Bible study said once, “Yeah, that’s easy for him to say.” Rightly so, but I do think Jesus understands disappointment; he works through humans after all. How many times did Peter and all the rest of the Saints let him down. How about the Church--how many times has Jesus’ Church disappointed him. But, like one of those top notch professional athletes or musicians, he seems to forget and moves on.
That’s where I find my relationship with Jesus so interesting – his perfection and my mistakes, his encouragement and my willingness to try it again with his help.
If Jesus played golf as well as he forgets disappointment, well, he’d be perfect at it. The rest of us, however, get to work on letting go of disappointment and teeing up again for another swing.