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How I Changed Peyton Manning’s Life (more or less)

February 8th, 2010

Ah, the anguish!  Palpable despair cascades across various regions of our nation this morning.  The mighty valiant pigskin warrior has been vanquished and the underdog of all underdogs has emerged victorious.  Today, watercoolers and forums and talk shows and classrooms will buzz with infinite personal theories about Peyton’s demise.

Note that I said “Peyton” and not “the Colts.”

Now I have to confess that I am a fan of Manning.  As an alumnus from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Peyton Manning and I go way back . . . in fact, I take personal credit for much of his success as an athlete.  The year was 1997.  It was already past sunset on a beautiful fall evening in East Tennessee and I was leaving a student government meeting at the University Center.  As I strolled down the massive, now seemingly empty main hallway that usually teems with young minds clamoring about for knowledge, I saw in the distance a silhouette of a man . . . . a tall man.

I often wonder how Peyton Manning recollects the story from his vantage point.  He would probably say, ” . . . and down the hallway, I saw the silhouette of a man . . . a short, funny-looking pudgy man.”

Anyhoo, as I approached him, a conversation ensued that changed the course of his entire career.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey,” he replied.

Yep, those two seemingly small words we exchanged that night no doubt inspired a young, struggling SEC athlete in his Senior year to go on to greatness.  Hey, they did win the SEC Championship that year.  I’m still waiting on my check as his motivational mentor.

Back to reality.  Today, I hope that Peyton doesn’t turn on his television at all.  Why?  Because all that he will hear is commentator upon commentator commentating with their many comments on how Peyton blew it and whether or not he will be remembered as the greatest of all time.  Isn’t it funny how our society can zero in on one moment to the exclusion of one’s lifetime or life’s work?

That’s why there’s a waiting period of several years before an athlete can be inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Why?  Because present perception always taints the accuracy of reality.  In other words, if I only take this single moment and make it the “arrival point” of my opinions of people, the economy, athletic teams, or even the world, then I will miss the reality of bigger picture.

Let’s get a grip for a moment.  The Colts lost the Super Bowl, not Peyton Manning.  If things continue as they have, Peyton’s statistics will most likely exceed most NFL quarterbacks in the history of the league.  “Only time will tell” is the expression we love to tout, yet we seldom give time the opportunity to speak.

So that’s Peyton, but what about you?  If we took your snapshot this morning and judged your entire life by it, how would you fare?  Are you failing?  Overweight?  Depressed?  Confused?  Or are you confident?  Successful?  Unstoppable?

Rest assured, only time will tell what the full consistency of your life will be made up of and you can bet it will be difficult to describe in one word.  If that’s the case, why do we struggle so hard to find the singular labels for ourselves?  God is intimately aware of our wins and your losses.  He has perspective on the big picture.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust myself to evaluate my own life.  I’m a neurotic freak of nature in most respects.  And I certainly don’t trust the world at large who will defame Peyton for a day over one game to throw in their two cents on my life.  When I stand before the Judge, I want nothing but who my Savior is and what He has done in my life to be the marker of my success.  Any temporary snapshots that I can produce as evidence won’t suffice.

His is the grand scheme . . . the big picture that will define my eternal reality.  Who cares what story time tells . . . only He will tell.



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