Monday, January 25, 2010
The Saints - Living in a Larger Story
For the majority of people in the world a job is just a job, just something to pay the bills, a necessary evil that gets in the way of life or for some the only reason for living. However, there are rare occasions when we come across people who live in a larger story where employment is not simply a means to an end but part of a larger vocation. These people see something sacred in their work and live in such a way as if something larger is at stake than mere survival or even the rewards of success. They work, not with their own selfish desires at the center of their motivation, but in a way that considers others, that lifts others as they succeed. While it is rare to meet folks who live in a larger story or to even glimpse them from afar, when we do, we will walk away different and inspired to live differently. These are people who are freed from the tyranny of riches and fame and who live passionately from the heart. These rare individuals arise in all kinds of different fields from business to religion to politics to rock n roll but wherever they appear, they are as a cold splash of water that awakens us to live for something bigger. One such group of individuals who exemplify this rare trait to me right now is the New Orleans Saints.
If you were not living in the New Orleans area when Hurricane Katrina wrought devastation to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast it is hard to imagine just how desperate things were. Those were very dark days. In just a matter of days the world that I was living in completely changed. I remember driving in with a relief convoy a week after the hurricane seeing helicopters flying over a darkened city sky, national guard troops holding machine guns, city streets that had just days before been filled with traffic and people that were suddenly replaced with an eerie stillness. It was the same city but it felt completely foreign—like the war torn third-world nations I had visited in years before. The emotions were a mix of shock, fear, and sadness. Would things ever be the same again? Could anything good ever come out of such amazing destruction?
Truth is things haven’t ever been the same again and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I have seen this area come alive as only those who have come back from the brink of destruction can—the food tastes better, the music sweeter, the relationships stronger and richer. There is a newer, clearer perspective that has come from this watery trial. Sure many of the same old problems with government and infrastructure are still here but it is a new day.
Nothing has come to symbolize this new day for New Orleans like the New Orleans Saints. As countless others, I cannot help but getting emotional thinking about the game last night. There in that Superdome which had become the symbol of everything wrong in the aftermath of Katrina, in that place of human suffering and tragic loss, there in that place where the government failed, where we saw the worst of human suffering, there in that same place last night we saw a picture of redemption and restoration as they Saints finished strong.
Sure everybody loves their hometown football team so what makes this any different? I suppose you could make the case that I am just trying to spiritualize my love of the Saints but I feel that this is different and that there is something bigger going on here than a mere football game. I am not the only one who feels this way. When you listen to the players talking they talk as if what is going on here is bigger than football. The truth is that there is something different about this team under the leadership of Sean Payton and Drew Brees. They play as though they are fighting for the city. And when they are off the field they live as though they are fighting for the city. While winning is no doubt important, the drive to win isn’t fueled simply by the need for success or greed or ego so common in professional sports. Brees and company are truly living in a larger story, a story about seeing this banged up and beaten down city restored.
In two weeks the Saints will face the Colts in the Superbowl, going far beyond any other Saints team in franchise history. That is no doubt amazing in and of itself. But whether they win or lose this final game, they have certainly won a bigger battle by lifting the hearts and minds of the people in the New Orleans area who are making their way down the path of restoration. They have inspired us to live and work in a larger story. God bless you boys!