Sunday, August 15, 2010

Real Courage

I stumbled upon this article this morning, found online through AOL's sports news at:|htmlws-main-n|dl4|link3|

Glen Coffee on Sudden Retirement: 'I've Already Told Christ It's Time to Go'

8/14/2010 4:30 PM ET By FanHouse Staff

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    • FanHouse Staff
Glen CoffeeGlen Coffee's stunning retirement Friday sparked a lot of speculation as to the reason -- including guesses that Coffee had failed a drug test or been involved in a spat with 49ers coach Mike Singletary. Turns out, the truth is much less sinister: Saturday, Coffee told Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee that he's headed back to school to complete his undergraduate degree and pursue a master's degree, a decision rooted in his deep religious beliefs.

"Actually when I look back I feel I never should have entered the draft in the first place," said Coffee, who left the University of Alabama after his junior year. "Football was no longer my dream. I found Christ in college. It changed my views on everything. But I still was a football player because it was expected of me, it was something I did all my life. I was basically wasting the [49ers'] time."

"His will, I felt, wasn't football. I felt like I forced football because everyone expected me to play football. He told me a long time ago to walk away from the game."

The 23-year-old's discussion with Barrows seemingly squashed the possibility that he'd go back on his retirement announcement.

"I've already told Christ it's time to go. I've already rung the bell. That's not going to happen," Coffee told Barrows.

San Francisco had been counting on Coffee to help spell starting RB Frank Gore, just as Coffee did during his rookie season. In 14 games last year -- including two starts -- Coffee carried the ball 83 times for 226 yards and a touchdown. Between Coffee and rookie Anthony Dixon, the 49ers were hoping to limit the beating Gore took in 2010. Most of that challenge will now fall on Dixon, unless the 49ers make a move to add another running back.

After Coffee's sudden announcement Friday, Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald tweeted, "Having covered 49ers RB Glen Coffee for 3 years, not surprised he retired. He has a higher call. Wouldn't shock me if he headed to ministry."

Coffee didn't specifically say that's in his plans after he returns to school at Alabama -- he's just six hours shy of his undergraduate degree in consumer affairs -- but he didn't rule it out either.

"There's going to be people that understand and there's going to be people that don't understand and don't care to understand," Coffee told Barrows. "They're going to feed off that negativity. That's life."


I am impressed on so many levels it is hard to know where to begin. Whether a Christian or not, it is pretty surprising to read about someone making a decision like this. Today's sports world is rife with stories of pettiness, selfishness, and those capitalizing on every marketing opportunity available. The world of professional sports arena also seems to be filled with many young men who are hailed as heroes one day and the next night are involved in serious criminal behavior.

What Glen Coffee has done is sure to be a huge surprise to many. He will likely be ridiculed and called a "fool" for walking away from the incredible sums of money that were no doubt in his future should he have remained a football player. Instead, he is walking away from the fame and fortune towards a very different kind of life. He is admitting a mistake in playing pro football as he said "I felt like I forced football because everyone expected me to play football. He told me a long time ago to walk away from the game."

How many of us are living lives that are inauthentic due to the expectations of others? How many of us are unable to summon the courage to step off the path we are on because we earn too much money and let ourselves be enslaved by that, or because we'd loose perceived prestige if we were unable to attach a title to our names?

It doesn't have to be a call to ministry, it can be a call to live a life that is different than the one we currently live. God uses each and every one of us to minister to others, it doesn't have to happen in pastoral garb. In my case, it happens to be within the context of family and the circles that ripple out from there. It might eventually lead to ministry in some form or another, or it might not, but I am reminded almost hourly that ministry happens at it's most effective often far away from the doors of a Sanctuary. Ministry happens in the aisles of the local supermarket, sitting on the bench watching a kids sports event. God works through each and every Christian to minister at the insurance office, on the field trip, in prisons between prisoners, in homes across the world.

When we confine ministry to those in robes or to places that have pipe organs, we confine God and elevate that which we should not. We also limit the limitless potential we each have to be God in the world, which is what we are called to do...bring light to the world. Ministry happens in all professions, not just those with the title of "Reverend". Mr. Coffee may or may not decide to enter seminary, but he has already been a minister in every way, setting an example to the world on a quite public stage that remaining in a role which feels as if it is contrary to God's call for our lives is a mistake, and he had the courage to back that up with action.

We associate the words "call" with only those who enter ministry, but we all have a "call" for our lives that may or may not be heeded. My call was quite surprising, both that it has been a call to ministry, and that we absolutely were called to move to Colorado, called to adopt, called to adopt 5 children rather than the 1 or 2 we imagined. We have been called to homeschool, called to volunteer when we were involved in public school, and I have no doubt that Dominick has been called to the unlikely career of being a car detailer.

Glamorous? No, but it is what God wants for him and he listened...and touches countless lives himself amongst those he has nurtured (and tough loved) who work for him...guys who have DUI's and can't get jobs elsewhere other than seasonal work, guys who have police records but need a chance to work somewhere, young guys working for the summer between high school and college. He was reminded that his "call" was also a ministry years back when one young man's mother saw him after having worked with her college bound son one summer and revealed that his college entrance essay was written about the man who taught him how to be a responsible man...the car wash guy who employed him that summer.

Glen Coffee senses that his call is not to be in professional football, that God wants to use him in some other capacity. He is willing to walk away from what others spend their entire lives trying to achieve, all so he can find his true path in this world. He is not even sure exactly what that path is, but he understands now what it is not.

In my book, that is real courage.

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