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Organized football is not part of my past.

It’s definitely not part of my present or future, either.   

But that hasn’t kept me off the gridiron.

For a number of years our extended family pursued a Thanksgiving Day tradition. Somewhere between the turkey and the pumpkin pie we would play a rowdy game of touch football out in the yard.

One Thanksgiving I was lined up against my in-laws and my own kids. It was all supposed to be simple and fun. And it was – for everybody but me. I don’t want to say I become competitive in any kind of sporting endeavor, but there was no way I was going to let my eight-year-old niece catch a pass on my side of the field.

Afterwards Mary Sue shook her head. “I can’t believe the things you were saying and doing out there.”

“What things?” I asked. I couldn’t imagine what she was talking about.

Unfortunately, it was all recorded on video. Later I sat down to watch the game.

I was stunned at how many opportunities I had where I could have been a good sport, where I could have smiled, where I could have passed along a simple word of encouragement. Instead, I always seemed to be yelling. “The pine tree is out of bounds!” “Hey, that wasn’t a legal catch!”

As I watched the video I found myself rooting for myself to become a better person. “Come on,” I kept thinking, “grow up! The outcome of this game doesn’t matter. The people here are what really matters.”

When the tape ended, I wondered if there was any hope for me. 

There is hope for me. There’s hope for you, too. There’s hope for anyone who takes a long, hard look at his or her own life and feels like a phony.

Our hope lies in receiving the gift of God’s grace.

Do we deserve it? Absolutely not. There’s a grand canyon of separation between deserving something and being worthy of something.

It’s self-evident that I don’t deserve a professional football career. Nor do I deserve a Pulitzer Prize, a Ph.D. in particle physics, or a chance to drive in this year’s Indianapolis “500.” If I did deserve those things, it would be because I had done something to earn them.

Worthiness is different. I am worthy of something not because I have done something, but because I am somebody of incredible value.

Against all reason, I am deeply loved and treasured by a God who will never abandon me. Even when I act like a jerk.

Paul expresses this eloquently in Romans 5:7-8: “We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever tohim” (The Message).   

That means there can still be a “next time” for me – another chance to play the game, be part of that meeting, or have that difficult conversation in a far more redemptive way.

No wonder we sing that God’s grace is amazing.