I’m playing a bit of catch-up, here, but…finally posting some reviews from last fall – just in time for Redbox release! Grab your Kleenex – it’s a tear-jerker but it’s worth it.
In the vein of The Blind Side, My All American is a football story based on true events and full of a lot of heart and Christian undertones. (It’s less evangelistic than Woodlawn, the other football flick released this fall, also based on true events…and also worth seeing.) It’s the story of Freddie Steinmark, a Rudy-esque player, who, despite his small stature, ends up playing for the University of Texas (UT). As you might expect, the movie is full of inspirational moments and messages about the power of hard work and determination and attitude. It’s so much more, though.
Some movies require a little creative thinking to see how they might parallel or illustrate spiritual concepts or how you can use them to have deeper, more meaningful conversations. I don’t think this is one of those. What I want to highlight though, is not the message of hard work and perseverance. Nor is it the message of how this one guy who never even made All-American status had such an impact on the world around him that movies are being made about him (while his contemporary All-American’s are passing on into relative obscurity)… Although that particular point does make quite an impression. The thing I want to highlight and I think bears a minute of contemplation is the impact a graceful response can make.
There are numerous instances of this, but my favorite was not actually Freddie’s, but Super Bill Bradley’s. Bill was the reigning quarterback. He was much lauded and quite talented. The problem was that he had a hard time with the new offense Coach Royal wanted to run which required thinking fast on his feet and reading the play, making decisions in the moment. In the middle of an embarrassing game, Coach made a quarterback switch, putting in an untried rookie, figuring it was worth a try and “it couldn’t be any worse.” The new QB was inspired. He may not have had the arm or the finesse that Super Bill Bradley had, but he was scrappy and he was genius at the new wishbone formation.
At this point, everyone expected Bill Bradley to do something. Transfer to another college? Get angry and throw a fit? Something. He was a senior. He was the starting quarterback. I believe he was also an All-American. He was also humiliated and dethroned by a new offense and new quarterback in the start of his senior year.
Bill walked onto the field at practice. Late. Angry, it seemed. He stormed up to the new quarterback and threw a ball at his face, hard, and said, “Let’s go slick! Throw me a pass—I’m looking for a new position!” The team around him was a bit perplexed—he had seemed angry, but then his comment indicated something else…as did his smirk. It was at this point that he did something wholly unexpected and took the edge off of everyone. He darted off on a run to catch the coming pass… and then pulled his pants down and mooned his teammates as he ran, getting tripped by the pants around his ankles and falling. Everyone burst out laughing, of course. He got up with the pass he’d caught and said to his teammates with a nod to the new QB, “Our quarterback! Hook ‘em!” So. Much. Grace.
Of all the responses he could have chosen, he chose grace. Not only that, he chose to make it public—his willingness to humble himself and accept a new position, his support of the coaching staff, his support of the new QB, his support of his team overall. Not only did he accept it, but he helped everyone else accept it. Laughter is a powerful thing. He could have said that he was “OK” with it, but nothing could have proven it quite like that moment of comedy. He did go on to play a new position and he did have a powerful impact on what became a championship team—all because he was able to respond with grace rather than entitlement.
The movie is full of these moments. People dealing with some sort of disappointment who make the choice to respond in a way that brings grace into the situation, for themselves and for those around them. I heard someone once talk about his response to someone who responded to a situation with pain and anger. He said, “You have all of these brilliant responses to choose from: love, joy, peace, patience, self-control… and you chose anger??? You chose bitterness? Why would you choose that with so many wonderful responses to choose from?!” It was comical and yet so simple and obvious. God has given us all these wonderful response options…and we choose such awful ones all the time. Why is that? How much better things would be for us and for the people around us if we could just learn to respond with grace…the way Super Bill Bradley did. The way Freddie Steinmark did.
How do you respond with grace, you ask? Well, a few thoughts.
- Don’t be surprised. “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” I Peter 4:12-13.
- Find joy in the fact that as you suffer, you get to identify with Christ in some way (see above).
- Find joy in the knowledge that hard times produce good fruit. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” James 1:2-4.
- Trust in God’s ability to work even bad things to good purposes in the end. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28. Also, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” Genesis 50:20.
- Realize that you have brilliant choices available to you. You don’t have to respond with what’s “normal”—things like entitlement, pain, bitterness, anger, jealousy, etc. You can choose to respond with the fruit of God’s Spirit instead (and if that’s hard for you, ask the Helper to help you do it!). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Questions for discussion:
- How did Bill Bradley’s response to losing his position as QB affect the team?
- How might a negative response have affected the team?
- How hard is it to respond gracefully to disappointment? Can you think of a time when you’ve done so?
- What would make it easier for you to respond with grace?
- In the 5 things above which help you respond well to trials, which comes easiest for you and which is hardest?