For some reason I was more emotionally invested in The Super Bowl than I typically get in football games. This made the cattywampus ending particularly difficult to take. In the hours after the game, as I processed the grief, I was reminded of a similarly disappointing athletic event that I participated in long ago. It is embarrassingly silly by comparison (and I haven’t thought about it in years), but it seemed deeply significant at the time — and it proved to be one of the earliest milestones in my spiritual journey.
Hume Lake Christian conference grounds was the annual destination of my church youth group throughout all of my middle school and high school years. This heavenly retreat center never failed to be the emotional and spiritual highlight of my year. It was always off-the-scale fun. Like most church camps, the athletic events were a centerpiece of each day. It was our summer olympics: church against church, cabin against cabin, mano y mano. Unfortunately, my church always seemed to end up somewhere south of 7th place year after year. That is, until my senior year. In the summer of 1984, the Grace Church youth group came prepared to win. And win we did: each day we dominated virtually every event. Each evening when the day’s standings were announced, we went wild as they called out our name in the first place slot. But daily standings aside, the ultimate pinnacle of our ambition was to be declared the olympic champions at the end of the week.
We continued to hold the top spot until the last day, and we were thrilled to learn that the final event was to be the 4×4 relay. This was exciting because two of our teammates were star track & field sprinters back home. We had no doubt that we would own this event and claim that coveted top prize.
I still remember as I watched that race: the third sprint… the final hand-off to our anchor… the baton dropping to the ground… our competitors speeding past us to win… and our amped excitement evaporating before our unbelieving eyes. I still remember the bitter disappointment that swamped our hearts and clouded our minds. It was this heartache that the Seahawks reminded me of Sunday afternoon.
But that wasn’t the only story that God had been unfolding in my heart that summer. In the months leading up to the camp, He had slowly been awakening a brand new spiritual hunger in me. Although I had been a “Christian” since my early youth, I look back on that Spring of 1984 as the real beginning of my spiritual life. So I had arrived at camp that year with a heart that had been freshly stoked with a fledgling fervor for the Lord.
And so there I was on that final day, surrounded by my buddies, all of us grieving deeply for our painful loss. And at that moment the Lord somehow grabbed my attention. It was as if he was surgically probing my heart, as if He was asking me a piercing question: “Am I enough for you?” The thought penetrated to the core of my teenage soul; it was the first real test of my newly emergent faith. And there under the giant sequoia trees, with my cheeks still stained from the tears of dashed hopes, I looked up and said, “Yes, Lord. No matter what happens in my life, You are all I need. Just knowing You is enough…. YOU are enough for me.”
That was a seminal moment for me. Quite literally, in fact: my life pivoted onto a new trajectory that day. (It just so happened that on that very day, in a seemingly unrelated turn of events, I won a one-year, full-ride scholarship to Multnomah School of the Bible, which catapulted me into an even more revolutionary spiritual adventure… but that’s another story). That afternoon in the Sierra Nevada mountains I gained something far more valuable than a trophy… more valuable than even a Vince Lombardi trophy. It was a formative lesson that I have had to learn and re-learn many times over the years, but it all started with a simple question from the Lord in the wake of a crushing defeat:
“Am I enough for you?”