On January 14, 2020, millions watched as Clemson and LSU played for the College Football Playoff National Championship. Excitement filled the air as both teams took the field to compete in one of the biggest televised events of the year. As the game progressed, numerous life lessons began to emerge from a 100-yard classroom called a football field.
In every football game, flags are thrown, time-outs are called, and mistakes are made. These moments create opportunities for players, coaches, and fans to respond either positively or negatively to the results.
With only a few minutes remaining in the game, Clemson’s quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, fumbled the ball. As the entire nation watched, the young man made his way to the sidelines where Clemson’s head coach stood watching and waiting. Yet, how Coach Dabo Swinney responded to the young man’s fumble will forever be remembered in the hearts of many—especially in the heart of one young man standing on that sideline.
As reporters filled the room for the post-game interview, Swinney took his seat. As correspondents asked their questions, one particular inquiry grabbed my attention. In regard to Lawrence’s fumble, one reporter asked what the coach had said to the young man as he approached the sidelines. Swinney responded, “I just told him to keep his head up. I told him that I loved him, and this was a great opportunity to lead and to respond.”
OBSERVATIONS FROM SWINNEY’S RESPONSE TO A YOUNG MAN STANDING ON HIS SIDELINE:
Observation One: Swinney placed more value on Lawrence’s life than on his fumble.
Reflections. . .
- He did not look outwardly at the mistake, but inwardly at the quarterback’s heart.
- He immediately sought to encourage Lawrence. He stated, “Keep your head up.” Swinney told him he appreciated him, as well as his fight, grit, and will.
- He reinforced his belief in the young man by reminding him that he was loved.
- He pointed the young man to look toward the opportunity that was in front of him instead of focusing on the fumble that was behind him. His was an opportunity to lead and respond well.
Observation Two: Swinney responded positively about Lawrence instead of negatively.
Reflections. . .
- With a nation watching, he conveyed encouraging words that built up Lawrence instead of damaging ones intended to tear him down.
- He pointed others to the good in the young man’s life, to his many accomplishments, and to his character. He alluded to how special Lawrence was.
- He expressed his confidence in the young man by stating, “I wouldn’t trade him for anybody.”
JESUS, THE GREATEST SIDELINE COACH OF ALL TIME
Throughout the Bible we read of countless individuals who found themselves standing on a sideline with Jesus. Well, maybe not a 100-yard sideline, but a “life-altering moment” sideline—a moment where grace and mercy were desperately needed. As we take a quick glance at some familiar stories from God’s Word, note how Jesus placed more value and emphasis on people’s lives and their callings than He did on their mistakes.
Peter denied Christ at a most crucial time. He probably thought his ministry days were over. But one day, as he returned to his profession of fishing, Jesus met him where he was, restored him, then encouraged him to get back to doing what he had been called to do.
David, a man after God’s own heart, dove head first into an adulterous relationship, then murder, then running from the God who had loved him and had led him throughout all his life. Yet God met him in his disobedience. David repented, and God restored him and used him greatly.
The woman caught in adultery was thrown on the ground before Jesus. Yet instead of experiencing the shame and condemnation she had from others, she experienced the love of a Savior. He directed her to go and sin no more. He saw value while others saw only her sin.
At one time or another we have all found ourselves standing on a sideline with Jesus in need of His mercy and His grace. From fumbles to poor decisions, we have knelt on bended knees asking God to forgive us, restore us, and even grant us a new beginning. During such moments, Jesus met us there with both mercy and grace.
Consider this question: Do we offer mercy and grace to those who have made mistakes toward us personally?
Not too long ago I was in a conversation with a godly minister who taught me a life changing principle. There were people at one of his previous churches who had left the fold because of past wounds that had never healed. Instead of being discouraged over the situation, the godly man chose to minister to their wounded hearts by reaching out. The minister stated, “I am trying to bring them back on the team. . . . They have value to this ministry.” While others saw those individuals as troublesome, this man saw them as having value and a place on the team. He recognized that they were useful for kingdom-building. In this moment, I didn’t see that minister; I saw Jesus.
I left that meeting convicted of how I had treated people in the past, but also inspired to be proactive in showing people the Savior’s love. You see, I have always been quick to dismiss instead of embrace or to offer cold shoulders instead of ones on which people can lean. After this meeting, I walked up to a sideline of my own where Jesus was waiting to deal with a heart that had certainly handled some matters poorly. Once again, I found His mercy and grace. I knew instantly that He wanted me to show others the same.
Instead of giving the world our opinions, let’s give the world Jesus.
We can certainly learn valuable lessons from Coach Dabo Swinney and the godly minister about dealing with those standing at our sidelines. But no one can ever teach a heart as Jesus does. When our hearts are overtaken by His transformation, we too will respond to others in a way that will bring lasting impact. A person will reflect what is on the inside of his or her heart, and those reflections will either draw people to Jesus or scatter them away.
Who is standing at your sidelines right now? Who has “blown it” with you? Who needs your grace, your mercy, or a second chance? May we never cease to give what has been given to us over and over by our Savior: love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace.
Lord, help us never to forget all the times You have met us on the sidelines of life. May we never cease to give mercy and grace to others who have made mistakes that have directly impacted us personally. Help us to seek unity instead of disunity, restoration instead of retreat. In Jesus’ name, amen.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12
About the Writer:
O’Shea is the mother of two and nana of five and enjoys both roles tremendously. She is the Executive Director of Entrusted Hope Ministries where she loves serving through speaking and blogging. A member of First Baptist Church, Dallas, O’Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and is currently working on her D.Ed.Min at Southwestern in Family Ministries.