Last year we ended on a really hard note. It was heartbreaking because we didn’t lose on athletic ability, we didn’t lose because the guys didn’t play, we lost because of character. But the goal is that we learn from that experience with the hope to get to the same position next year and create a different outcome.
When it comes to character, if you don’t pass the test, you will retake it. You won’t move on until you pass. God is more interested in building character than helping you survive a situation. We are His ambassadors, being sent out into the world to represent Him, so He will continue to refine our character until we reflect the image of Christ. So we know that no matter what play happens, and no matter what a ref might say, those things cannot determine your response.
Everybody loves orange juice, but no one talks about the process that oranges go through in order to make the delicious drink. The oranges need to be squeezed until they’re dry in order to produce the juice. In the same way, the squeezing that we experience in our lives produces character.
The way we react to to the situations we face reveals our character. If someone mistreats us, do we react the way the world conditions us to react or do we react in a way that brings glory to God? In this team, many of our players have prayerfully learned character from this game and that will carry over, not only in this upcoming season, but in every season of their lives.
“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” —Romans 5:3-5
One of the most amazing moments from the last game of last season happened after the game ended. After all the drama unfolded and tension was high, I looked over and saw our left tackle, Andrew Whitworth, heading over to the 50-yard-line. Every game ends with players from both teams praying together at the 50-yard-line but at this particular game, no one was heading over to that line. But Andrew stepped out and was the catalyst that night. By himself for 30 seconds before anyone else showed up, Andrew knelt down. He didn’t care what had just taken place or what emotions he was feeling about the game, he knew there was something much greater to be worshipping—that God was worth praising even in the hardest moments. Seeing his proclamation of faith and humility brought me to tears.
“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.” —Psalm 145:3
No one can walk forward while looking backwards. The great thing about the NFL is that every season you start all over again. Yes, last year didn’t end the way we wanted it to end, but now it’s a new year, and there is a great anticipation among the Bengals for this new season. With this anticipation comes confidence to know that we can play great again this year and do it even better. As we enter into the season of training camp this year, that anticipation and confidence is palpable.
—LaMorris Crawford, Chaplain of the Cincinnati Bengals
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