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Bobby Bowden on God and Commitment

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7 months ago

Bobby Bowden said:

 

“What we are willing to lose defines what we are enabled to have.

 

The most difficult task of life--taking full responsibility for themselves and their choices--is a challenge they accept daily. Not that they manage every circumstance perfectly. No one does. But they aim to leave the world a better place than they found it. When they do make mistakes--or fail in some painful way--they look first at themselves, how they should have acted differently, and see that it is their responsibility to change the error of their ways. They are not strangers to guilt and shame. But they do not wallow in it. Or try to fix the blame on others. They learn from their errors and make improvements. In so doing, they raise the standard for all of us. We admire them. We see the wisdom of their ways.

 

The person who must belittle his opponent to win an argument, who accepts praise but never blame, or who manipulates others to exalt himself, is ultimately on the losing end of a battle that has been fought throughout human history.

 

Self-discipline lies at the heart of all good loving and good living. It’s something one must experience in order to truly understand. Training for it is best done in youth. But any time is a good time to begin.

 

Indeed, few of the endeavors that lead to success and happiness are inherently fun experiences. Imagine a parent saying, ‘I decided to quit taking care of my child because it wasn’t fun anymore.’

 

In the biblical meaning, No is not some joyless act of self-denial or asceticism. Rather, it is aimed toward a goal--the ‘pearl of great price’ that we yearn to have for ourselves. And it is not passive. The no spoken in faith is tenacious, determined, and fierce. Above all, it is life affirming. It is the kind of No we say when we resolve never to revisit a place that brings us only pain and misery. It is the kind of No we say to an adversary when we determine that ‘No, you will never triumph over me!’ Ultimately, it is the No we proclaim daily as we fight to seek and know the Living God. It is to ourselves that we first must speak this word.

 

The virtue of simplicity challenges us to focus on what is necessary and liberate ourselves from what is unnecessary. A cluttered life is not a sign of achievement. Life gets complicated all by itself. We complicate it further by confusing needs and wants. Subtly, almost imperceptibly, we start believing that contentment isn’t possible until we get what we want. And wants tend to be defined in terms of money and material possessions, or whatever else ‘successful people’ have that we don’t have. Not that wanting or having material things is evil. Not by a long shot. Money isn’t evil, either. The apostle Paul reminded young Timothy that ‘...the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.’ That is so true. And good advice. But note that it is the love of money, not money itself, that Paul warns about. By love, he means a commitment to money that surpasses one’s commitment to the Living God. He says that such love produces “all kinds of” evils, not all evil. Money in itself is no more the cause of evil than food is the cause of gluttony.

 

We will never know God as fully as He knows us. We are limited not just physically as human beings but also intellectually. But that doesn’t mean we have no evidence of God’s steadfast love. Faith opens to us a world of experience and understanding that we cannot get otherwise. If our hearts do not want to believe in God, our heads most assuredly will not make us. But if we seek Him, He will be found. His wisdom comes to us only through trusting Him. A good example of what I mean is found in marriage. I know my wife loves me. And I love her. We have made our marriage work for over sixty-five years. Such a long life together would not have been possible had we not begun our relationship in an act of faith and maintained that faith in one another through the years. Back in 1948, I believed her love for me was as sincere and committed as my own. I couldn’t know that for sure. I had to take it on faith and make a commitment to her. Only then could I discover how loyal and enduring her love could be. Can you imagine what my chances of learning those things about her would have been if, on our wedding day, when asked if I was prepared to love her and stay loyal for the rest of my life, I said, “Well, until I have absolute proof of her trustworthiness and loyalty, I cannot make that promise”?! She would never have tolerated that kind of skepticism. And I would never have known her as well as I do today. A world of knowledge would have been missed. More important, the comfort and joy she brings to my life would never have been possible. The greatest discoveries in life come after we have made the commitment, not before.

 

It’s interesting to reflect back over one’s life and ask, ‘When was I the happiest, the most contented?’ The answer for me is one that you might not expect. Yes, I have enjoyed winning national championships. Being a winner is fun when you’re winning. Fame is much the same. I no longer worry about putting bread on the table or keeping a roof over my head. Those issues have longed been resolved. Yet the happiest days of my life may well have been those younger years in Douglas, Georgia, when Ann and I struggled mightily to make ends meet. Pocket change was about the only extra money we had in those days. We had four children to feed, clothe, and raise. All of our worldly possessions could have been fit into a small trailer and towed behind our tattered station wagon.”





Latent Thoughts #26

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Source: The Wisdom of Faith by Bobby Bowden

Painting: Madonna of the Carnation by Leonardo Da Vinci 

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