Monday, December 28, 2009

Urban Renewal

I hate the Florida Gators. When I was a kid I hated them simply because they weren't the Georgia Bulldogs. When the 90s came around I started hating them for a different reason - they always beat the Georgia Bulldogs. That trend has been going strong for roughly two decades now.

As much as I don't like the Gators and as much as I hate to admit it, they are a good program. They have perhaps the best player to ever play college football in Tim Tebow and an excellent coach in Urban Meyer. In his short time in Gainesville, Meyer has won two national titles and lost only ten games. You can imagine my response when I found out this weekend that Meyer would be stepping down as the Gators coach. It was something like this, "Yes, now a new coach can come in and dominate Georgia every year!" When I found out that Meyer was stepping down for health reasons, my joy went away. It's sad to see poor health keep someone from doing what they love to do, no matter who they coach.

It looks like Meyer's health problems are stress related. This is good news because the stress can be dealt with and things can turn back around. It's also bad news because stress can kill you. Many doctors say that an overwhelming majority of the patients they deal with are in their examining rooms due to stress issues. Meyer seems to fit that mold. He has lost 20 pounds, not because of Jenny Craig but because of stress. He suffers from severe headaches because of a cyst on his brain that flares up in stressful situations. He has had chest pains for the past four years.

Those chest pains came to a climax after losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship game and snapping a 22 game win streak. He woke up that night with his worst pains yet, passed out and was admitted to the hospital. All of this led to Meyer's resignation, which has now been scaled back an extended vacation. I think that there are a few things to learn from Meyer's situation.

1. No matter how good you are, success does not ultimately satisfy.
Urban Meyer is a great coach with the hardware to prove it. But two national titles didn't help him to rest any easier. This is the way that anxiety works. Anxious hearts do not like to rest in past accomplishments. They always have to perform better. Anxiety kills. The gospel saves. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 11:28-30 that He is a God of rest. Success is a god of performance that we can never appease.

2. No matter how much control you have, you're still greatly limited.
Meyer, like many successful coaches (and pastors for that matter) is a workaholic. walked away from a recent interview with him with the following impression.

As Christians, we should avoid every temptation to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. Our hearts may tell us things like, "Why get someone else to do it when I can do it myself" or "No, it's okay. I can figure this out on my own. No sense troubling someone else" but those kinds of attitudes can be our death. Those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ have put their faith in the one who, "is before all things, and in Him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17). Carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders may make us look strong and may even lead to a measure of success but eventually our shoulders buckle under the pressure. Why not transfer that weight to the one who holds all things together and spoke the entire universe into existence? No matter how many plates we can spin at one time, we fail to measure up to that kind of power and authority.

3. No matter what the crowds say, you need to listen to those that know you best.
Mrs. Meyer said this about her husband's upcoming leave of absence.

Those words carry a bit of sting with them. Without reading between the lines, you can hear the pain in those words. The workaholic who enjoys much success in his professional life would see, if he stepped away from himself, a lot of pain in his home life. We may use the excuse of providing for our family but the irony is that our mismanaged priorities can create a wedge between us and the ones who love and know us best. You don't want someone else to take your place raising your kids because either you worked yourself to death or never were around. Talk to your family and get their feel for your presence, or lack thereof, around the house. Have you been irritable, short or distant? Listen to their assessment and act accordingly.
Your spouse and your kids don't care about your professional success if it looks like it was put before them. In fact, they may even grow to resent it. The sad reality is that multitudes of women and children grow to hate the body of Christ because daddy seemed to love the flock at the church more than the flock at home. I work that reality into my schedule every day.

4. No matter how good you are at running on fumes, you need to rest.
I can't speak for Urban Meyer, but a lot of us feel the need to constantly be on the move. We have to be at work early, work through lunch, stay at work late and come home to work some more. Often, even what we call our leisure time ends up being work. Burn out is imminent if there is not a serious slow down.
Sometimes, taking a nap is the most Christlike thing you can do. Jesus wasn't above a good nap (Mark 4:35-41) and we shouldn't be either. As CJ Mahaney has pointed out, a good long time of sleep is an active demonstration of our trust in the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ. When we get a little shut eye, He's still got it figured out without our help.
For me, Friday and Saturday of each week is my down time. Sure, I still go for a run and play around with the kids but these are my days to step away from my daily functions and rest in the power of God. I could always spend more time preparing for Sundays but Friday and Saturday, along with the work I do Monday through Thursday are gentle reminders of the importance to trust my schedule to the supreme rule of Jesus Christ.

Urban Meyer's story hit me because I seem to be wired the same way as he is, without the championship hardware to show for it. I am, by nature, a worrier. I get worked up about things that really don't even matter that much. My prideful heart prevents me from delegating like I should. These are all things that I am working on as I lean on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. His gospel saves me from the death trap of constantly striving to perform better every day. I need to hear that gospel daily, so does Urban Meyer and so do you.

Go Dawgs!

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