A friend shared a question that was posed to her the other day: “What is the one thing your entire life is oriented towards?” It wasn’t a trick question. There wasn’t a right or wrong answer. It merely was asking, “What is the main goal of your life?” With Super Bowl 50 fast approaching, I began to think about this question in relation to the lives of the NFL players preparing for this weekend, especially Peyton Manning. Every season for the entirety of his career — and in the years before — he has been working towards this goal, to win the Super Bowl, amidst team changes, injuries, and the like. Similarly, as Christians, we are in pursuit of a heavenly reward for which we should be preparing each and every day. So I decided to look up a little bit about Manning and see what we might be able to learn from him to help us on our spiritual journey.
- Watching Game Film: Peyton Manning asked to watch his first game film when he was in seventh grade — 12 years old! He was constantly asking his dad, Archie Manning, who made his name as the quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, questions about how to be a good quarterback. In college, he would beat the coaches to their office in the morning and stay late to study the film of his opponents. His coaches compared him to a sponge that never reached its saturation point. Peyton took in all that he possibly could to make himself the best player he could be. What are we doing to make ourselves the best Christians we can be? Although we don’t have game film to watch, we do have the lives of the saints, which detail, play-by-play, how to follow Christ in both the ordinary and extraordinary moments of life. Are we soaking up all that we can from their examples?
- “Coach me like a pee wee quarterback!”: At the beginning of every training camp, Manning would demand to be coached like a pee wee (middle school) quarterback. He had coaches critique his stance, his position under center, his drop steps, and his handoffs. No critique was too minute for Peyton. Many times throughout his career, Manning would reach out to other players and coaches for advice on how to improve his game. He knew he needed others to help him identify the areas of his game in which he could use some growth. On our spiritual journey, we need to humble ourselves and ask our brothers and sisters in Christ to help us identify the areas in our life that need some work. Each of us could use a little “back-to-basics” training in the spiritual life and would benefit from letting ourselves be “coached like a pee wee quarterback.” Nothing is too basic or simple for our God.
- Recovery from Injury: In 2013, Peyton Manning underwent his fourth neck surgery, after which he needed quite a bit of time for recovery. All of the muscle memory that he had built up over the years was completely gone. He had to start from square one. He worked for several weeks, every day, to build up his strength. Manning was determined get his arm back in working condition. Nothing was going to stand in his way. There are times in our spiritual journey when we fall, when we regress, when we feel like all hope might be lost. These are very crucial and telling times if we are truly striving towards eternal life with the Father. It would be easy to say that it is too hard and to give up, but we know that by the grace of God we have the strength to get back up and keep trekking forward. It takes all of our will to allow the grace of God to penetrate our hearts and transform our lives.
- Bucket of Ice Water: During the 2013 post-season, Peyton was preparing for a game that was to be played in below 5-degree weather. As the Broncos’ offensive coordinator looked down the bench, he saw Peyton sticking his hands into a bucket of ice water for several seconds, and then taking them out and beginning to throw. Manning wanted to know what it would feel like throwing with hands that were numb from the cold. He intentionally put himself through a bit of suffering in order to be better prepared for what was to come. The Church has given us the gift of fasting, a practice in which we are able to train our wills in order to prepare for the spiritual battle we are fighting. We must test our wills in order to strengthen them for when it really counts. We must not be afraid of a little ice water in order to be ready for the coldness that will inevitably surround us.
Now obviously heaven is more important than a Super Bowl ring (or should be, at least). But let us pray that we all may have discipline like Manning’s, to live a life worthy of our goal and of our Lord. God bless!
“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
All information in this blog about Peyton Manning’s life can be found in the article Inside Manning on SportsonEarth.com.