God made visible

In the middle of last week I spent most of a morning catching up with the recent news from Penn State University, one of the biggest universities in my part of the world and a deep part of the cultural heritage around here. Really terrible stories, about sexual assault of children and adults who somehow didn’t come to grips with the situation and stop it, and the many-years-later aftermath on lives and careers of some long-respected people. (I’m not going to write about it in any further detail; ask the internet and you’ll find as much to read as you can stand.)

Disturbing stuff. Really disturbing, and for several days it was hard to shake off thinking about it, if I got reminded (and I tried to not get reminded, because mulling over it all endlessly doesn’t do me or anyone else any good). In the end, the only thing that finally made me let go of it was to pray and put it all back into God’s hands — not just to acknowledge that he knows everything about it already, but to ask that somehow, in the impossible way in which he does this, that he will use these horrible things as seeds for good things to come. That he will take all the evil that has been done, and somehow use it for good. I don’t know how he does it; I could hardly imagine how he would be able to do it here, when all the news and everything I heard was unrelentingly bad. Nonetheless, that’s what I had to pray, and hang on to the truth of it, even though it felt hopeless.

I’m behind the news, but today a friend linked me to a video clip of the Penn State/Nebraska game from last weekend, in which one of Nebraska’s assistant coaches, Ron Brown, led both teams and nearly everyone on the sidelines in prayer before the game. It made me cry to watch it.

It was the first thing I’ve seen from this entire scandal that is hopeful or good — even just as a public reminder and acknowledgement that the current football team and a lot of staff at Penn State have nothing to do with the scandal, I think it was admirable. But it’s more than that.

Look at that crowd of people, gathered in the middle of a football field to pray. Look at all of them, and remember that bit of scripture where Jesus says he’s present wherever just two or three people come together in his name.

God made visible, in the middle of a football game. God made present, for thousands of gathered fans. God’s glory displayed, for hundreds of thousands of watchers-by-television. God’s name scattered across the media, across the internet, to countless people who need to see him — God who changes lives, who can heal people who would otherwise do harm and protect those who need to be protected. Millions of seeds of potential good, cast far and wide.

I am already hearing in my mind’s ear (is there such a thing? If there is a “mind’s eye,” then I suppose the mind can have an ear as well) someone reading this and saying “one pre-game prayer, big deal. It doesn’t make up for what happened.”

Of course it doesn’t make up for anything. Nothing that happens in the future will ever “make up for” anything evil which has happened in the past. People’s actions and choices don’t balance out like numbers and math. There is no real “accounting” for human history, not in that way.

But the fact that it doesn’t “make up for” anything doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. I can’t say it better right now than, of all things, a really good episode of a sci-fi TV show which I like very much:

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant.

(emphasis mine; episode written by Richard Curtis)

A prayer at a football game, where a godly man stood up to speak the name of Jesus into a situation that needs Jesus badly, matters. God will make it matter. I have no doubt that he is already nurturing those scattered seeds, and will continue to do so, bringing good things up out of bad, in that impossible way which only he can do.


1 comment so far

  1. brother on


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