This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Heisman trophy season of one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game of football. Oklahoma State University (OSU) will celebrate the historic exploits of Barry Sanders. Excuse me, College Football and National League Football (NFL) Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. Sanders started at running back just one season at OSU, but in that one season he assaulted the Big Eight and NCAA record books. Not bad for someone who, in high school, had his starting tailback position wrested away from him by one of his brothers. Thank God he moved to running back! At 5’8”, Sanders wasn’t heavily recruited. He ended up at OSU, playing behind future NFL Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas for two years. Sanders’ one prodigious season was all he needed to prove he could play among the men already suiting up in the NFL. He vaulted to the NFL after that season, to the Detroit Lions. The Lions selected him third overall in the 1989 draft. He immediately commenced to writing his name all over the NFL annals. Then in July of 1999, after ten seasons with the Lions, he shocked the world and knocked his team off-balance when he announced his retirement, via fax. After much speculation and consternation, Sanders finally admitted that the losing had started to affect his spirit and he was willing to let it go before it changed who he was.
In 2009, a certain married hedge fund analyst quit his job. This particular analyst held a BS in mathematics, a BS in electrical engineering and computer science, as well as an MS in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and he held an MBA from Harvard Business School. Five years earlier, Salman Khan’s seventh grade cousin was struggling with math so he agreed to tutor her – remotely. He lived in Boston and she lived in his hometown of New Orleans so he would upload his tutorial sessions to YouTube. It turned out that his cousin wasn’t the only one who benefited from the lessons. People started making requests for lessons which led him to create a YouTube account so that he could regularly upload sessions. Finally he decided to quit his job and focus on what had become the Khan Academy: a non-profit learning institution initially run from a desk in one of Khan’s closets. The mission of the non-profit is “to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” His lessons caught the attention of Bill Gates. Gates had found and used the lessons to teach his own kids. After his discovery, he set up a meeting with Khan and the rest is unfolding history. Sal Khan now has financial backing and is slowly changing the face of education. He and his very innovative team have been able to write software that measures the change they seek to make.
These two accounts represent myriads of others. The subjects followed the leading of the Lord or, as a lot of them would say, followed their hearts. It’s so easy to get caught up with making mountains of money or having power or prestige or exercising privilege that we can forget our original intentions. Or we may find our cause while following a path that was preparing us for the task God always had for us. Whichever the case, sometimes we have to leave our good job or our comfortable relationships to do what is true for us (and everybody won’t understand). God may have us where we are to grow our character, while changing the culture and environment around us, or He may make it very plain that we are out-of-place. (Prayer and time with God is essential here.) While apprehensive and nervous, we have to remember what David told us; he lived a long time and he never saw the righteous forsaken or the children of the righteous begging for bread (Psalm 37:25). In our overarching mission to glorify God and draw others to Christ, we may have to hold fast (see previous blog), step out, step up or step over, and it will all be good as long as our steps are ordered by the Lord. We just have to remember that mistakes are darn near mandatory but patterns are detrimental and hiding-out is not acceptable. If we all get busy, we can change our living space for the better. Now go do your thing while I try to do mine!