There's No Football in Heaven...a mother's story
We lost a high school football player in Mississippi yesterday. It wasn't a player from our school, but a school that we play each year. From the tweets over the weekend, you could see that this young man in critical condition after a Friday night football game was calling all schools to come together and pray. Even the football coaches from our colleges, Dan Mullen at Mississippi State and Hugh Freeze from Ole Miss, were joining in on the call out for prayer. As I have prayed, I'm reminded that our time here is but a vapor but has eternal impact, and unfortunately that sometimes it is tragedy that brings unity. We lift up today the family of Walker Wilbanks and the students at Jackson Prep that will need the Comforter to meet them in their grief.
With this thought of the loss of this son on my heart, I am reminded of a woman I met last week. I have wanted to share her story, because it touched my heart so and it speaks to the truth of what I have been trying to impress upon mothers about realizing what has eternal significance. While I love Marshall Ramsey from the Clarion Ledger's tribute to Walker, it said the timing is now to share her story.
I was visiting a friend at the hospital to see her new born baby. When I was leaving a woman pulled me aside and asked if I was the writer of the Sweeteas. I told her that I was, and she said, "You have to hear my sister's story, because I think she needs to write a book called, There's No Football In Heaven." The woman had to pry it out of her sister, but finally she did share her story.
A story that has not left my mind since that day....
She told me that she lost her son in a tragic car accident many years back. She confessed that football was their life. She said that they even changed schools and held their boys back so that they could get an advantage in sports. They were a strong Christian family she said, but I had no idea that football was an idol for us. Everything in our world revolved around football. Then her son, a freshman in college is instantly gone. Her grief she says was unbearable. Without her faith she said didn't know if she would have survived at all. Then she said that one night God gifted her with a dream. Her dream was so vivid and real that she knew it was a gift. A dream that would be her peace going forward.
In this dream, she tells me that she is watching a parade but the parade is much like a train. She sees a woman driving the train, and it is her dear friend that lifted her hands during her grief when she didn't know how to pray. She waves and smiles. She sees people on box cars, and then her youngest son. Then she sees him. She sees the one that was gone and she runs to him. She was telling me that she was asking him so many questions that he could hardly speak back. Are you okay? I miss you so much? What is it like?
He replied she said with whatever the word for "awesome" was then, but more than that. Mom it is awesome, no it is more than awesome. I wouldn't come back. Then he finally gets a chance to speak and he tells her two things:
Mom, there's no football in heaven and the 13th year was the greatest year of my life.
She said that he started to cry in telling her about that year and then he disappeared. She told me that her resolve was that there are no tears in heaven, so before he could even cry he must have had to go back. She smiled at me and I felt her peace.
She woke her husband that night and replayed the details of the dream because she knew it was God allowing her to get peace about her son's sudden death. She then began replaying the details of the 13th year which she thought was his freshman year at college, since he didn't say thirteen. She found nothing that would show her that it was the best year of his life. Then one day when she was going through his things, she found his Bible. He had inscribed something in it with the date signifying the day he met Jesus, and yes he was 13 years old.
You can tell she was an amazing mom, and so proud of her boys. I so enjoyed just meeting her, and it was such a blessing for me to see the peace she has found despite her grief. I pray that same peace for Shelia Wilbanks today. I know that this woman has a story to tell, and it is one of realizing that football and baseball and cheerleading are great, but in the whole scheme of life we must not forget that they have no eternal significance. In the South, we love football. Raising kids that can get as excited about Jesus as they do about a Friday night football game here, now that has eternal significance.
He brings beauty from ashes....
While my heart breaks for this family, my soul rejoices to see pictures like this of students from other schools coming together to pray. I just wonder why it takes a tragedy to move us to our knees?
John Maxwell has a book titled, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, and the first law is the "Law of the Lid". The leadership will determine the effectiveness of an organization. They will in essence put a lid on the potential of a place based on their own leadership ability. This tragedy has given us space for God to move in our schools, but for it to become a way of life and not a response to a tragedy God will have to move in our leaders. I challenge you to write out the leaders of your school, as I have, and begin praying for God to move in their lives.
Father, Remove the Lid! Our children need you to invade our schools and sports and lives, and if it takes Godly leaders to remove the lid then move in their lives quickly.
What has eternal significance is not how many games we win, or how accomplished our cheerleaders are, or how lines intersect, or who wrote A Farewell to Arms, or what the interior of a frog looks like, or how many fish we catch or how many gold balls line our display, or labels that mark their possessions, or where they have stamped on their passport. What has eternal significance is the condition of their heart. He looks at the heart. I Samuel 16:7
Enjoy football, but remember there's no football in heaven! What legacy will you leave?
I do think this precious woman needs to write her story, but for now I hope in sharing a piece of it, the desire of her heart is shared to move moms to truly get the things that do have eternal significance.
Praying for the Wilbanks,