Who Am I When It's All Taken Away? - Benjamin Watson

If I were still in the NFL this fall, I’d be a wreck. Attempting to train for the season on your own, without a team of people to help you through the intense protocol, has got to be really tough for the guys. I know there is a lot of anxiety they are dealing with when facing questions such as: Where are we going to be? Is there going to be a season? Should I leave my family and quarantine for the entire season? Do I opt out? There are so many layers to the question of if there will be pro football this year or not. 

When I think about my NFL career, and all the ups and downs that came with it, there were a lot of seasons when I was tempted by anxiety. Now that the constant in my life for more than 25 years — fall football — is no longer there, it’s a little scary. I knew it would be. This is the first August since the ninth grade that I’m not playing football. While I know that physically I shouldn’t be playing anymore, there are days when I think I could. 

It’s difficult giving up something that I’ve devoted my life to for so long. Everything in our lives has been predicated on the football schedule: family vacations, our children’s schooling, when I rest and workout, what I eat and where we live. The entire family adjusted as needed. And this last adjustment is a major one for us as well. But there are highlights. Yesterday I was able to attend my son’s baseball game, which I normally wouldn’t be able to do. Overall, though, once I find out what the next thing is — what my next mission is — then I think I’ll have a little more comfort.

Our culture doesn’t do waiting well. We are programmed to get whatever we want now, when and how we want it. But that makes trials difficult. Practically, there are steps we can take to get through seasons like these in a healthy way. For me, I’ve found a great sense of accomplishment by making a list and doing what I set out to do for the day. That list may contain items such as make these five calls, write an article and teach the kids. But at the end of the day, when I know I’ve done all I set out to do, I get the same feeling of accomplishment as I would for a full workday.

It’s also important for us to try something new. I recently took a few seminary classes. They were hard. They stretched me in a different way; my mind was challenged in a good way. 

We also have to be really conscious of our mental and emotional health in seasons like these. I recently talked to a player, whom I randomly texted, who is in between teams and out of the league. He expressed how hard it is to be in limbo right now. I can relate. Whether we are home alone or at home with our wife and kids, this season can lead to discouragement, fear, anxiety or discontentment. Taking an honest assessment of our emotional and mental health is very important. It’s not unspiritual to get help.

More than anything, in this season God is making me be still. When speaking engagements, meetings and other agendas are being canceled, I am thankful that I have my identity secured in Christ. Being still causes us to really face the concept of identity. Who am I when it’s all taken away? We often stay so busy we don’t think about who we really are; we don’t have time to think about eternity. We busy ourselves to numb ourselves. But there is work that can be done within you that’s critically important, and you must address it in the right way. 

I don’t know all of what God is impressing upon me to do next, but I know it’s good. And in the meantime, I know who I am by knowing who God is. I may just have to go through a time of uncertainty, but we all do, don’t we? Whatever comes after this, I know that, because it’s in God’s hands, it’s going to be good.

— Benjamin Watson, former NFL tight end

Benjamin Watson is a regular contributor to The Increase, providing articles and opinions. Check out Benjamin’s Increase profile here.

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