When you hear the name Willie Parker, what do you think of? If you’re an occasional watcher of NFL football, perhaps that kind that only really watches Super Bowls, you probably think of Willie’s run in Super Bowl XL, the longest run in Super Bowl history. If you’re an avid Pittsburgh Steelers Fan, then you have fond memories of Willie’s 6-year NFL career with the Steelers. If you’re my 17-year old son, then you only know Willie from the stories your dad told you and what Willie told you himself live and in person at his football camp, which is this weekend in Pittsburgh.
As my son and I listened to Willie open the camp with a pep talk, he said something profound, something that I teach as part of my MindWolves coaching, which is why it resonated. I expected Willie to talk about working hard, learning from mistakes, overcoming doubters, and doing the little things right. Also, he talked about how his mom and dad made him do things he didn’t want to do growing up, like making his bed, taking out the trash, and cutting the grass, to teach him a sense of accomplishment. But what I didn’t expect him to say is that he was not truly successful until he “got his mind right.” He said, “Y’all can do anything, but you gotta get your mind right first. And that means getting it right with God.” Amen, Willie. Preach!
It’s always nice when the positive impression you have about a person’s character is affirmed when you meet them in person the first time. Thank you Willie for modeling gratitude, humility, hard work, perseverance, and faith. It was such a pleasure to meet you.
Reflecting on what Willie said affirmed what I’ve also learned in my life. In the real world, our efforts and determination often fall short. Only by walking in the power of the Holy Spirit can we live a life that is joyful and meaningful, a life worthy of the calling we have received from God. However, living a joyful life doesn’t mean living a pain-free life. Being loved by God doesn’t mean being coddled. Our comfort is not His primary interest, just as Willie’s parents’ primary interest wasn’t his comfort in making him do chores.
As an apple farmer prunes an apple tree to get a bountiful harvest, so does God allow pain in order to bring forth greater spiritual growth and character. He gets out His pruning knife and removes anything that hinders us from becoming the person He designed us to be. The process is often painful, but His pruning results in us becoming a more accurate reflection of His character and yielding the Fruit of the Spirit in our character: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and Self-Control.
Getting your mind right means letting go of the pain of the past. God wants to use it for your good, so let Him. He will ensure all things in your imperfect past will be used for the good of your future if you love Him and let Him … just like Willie Parker does.
Your past will either make you bitter or better. What sustains you is not becoming bitter about your past, nor bitter about your circumstances, but practicing radical grace. Radical grace empowers you to become better. Radical grace extends positive favor to someone who doesn’t deserve it. Radical grace is forgiving someone who hurt you. Radical grace liberates you from wanting to settle the score. Radical grace is free and unmerited favor offered to someone regardless of who they are and what they’ve done.
Radical grace helps get your mind right for your good and the common good. Let’s all buckle up, put our mouthpieces in and get our minds right. Thank you, Willie, for the inspiration.