The G.O.A.T. and God

“God Healed My Body”

Duo Dickinson / 1.30.23

The country watches football in January. Yesterday’s last game in January fulfilled the hopes of the hundreds of millions who care so much about a game. It was prime time, with two of the best teams in the league and incredible athletes on both sides.

Hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, the visiting Bengals had won eleven straight games to face the Kansas City Chiefs. They had gone to the Super Bowl last year and wanted to go again. They were healthy playing a game where there is a 100% chance of injury. Rivalry, redemption, and football immortality were at stake.

On the other side, the Kansas City Chiefs were playing at home, and fully injured. Their lengthy list of injuries included several defensive players, wide receivers, and — most notably — their QB Patrick Mahomes. The previous week, a teammate pinned the foot of Mahomes to the ground while another player pushed his body in a way that would have broken my ankle. And yours. Heading into this week, all eyes were upon the injured hero leader, who had won the Super Bowl a couple of years before.

Taking snaps in the pocket and throwing with noticeably less velocity, limping on and off the field, and hesitating on his throws with uncharacteristic inaccuracy, this G.O.A.T looked almost normal. He stood in the pocket on one leg, literally hopping to throw the ball with a painful high ankle sprain. And yet, in the last minute of play Mahomes willed his impaired ankle to run past just enough defenders to bring the Chief’s close enough to attempt a winning field goal.

So Mahomes, and the Chiefs, won this game, against a fully healthy Bengals team.

The usual reaction to extraordinary victory is triumph. A great coach once motivated his players by citing their sacrifice: “This is why you lift all those weights!” And it is. And run. And practice and live your entire life up till this moment. You win. Everyone playing on that field was living their lifelong devotion with others, doing anything and everything to express their joy and revel in their accomplishment. It was, truly all about them.

One team always loses and one team always wins. Humans exult or they are despondent; what they do is who they are.

Unless they can see that there is more.

The injured Mahomes could see. Upon winning and being immediately interviewed, there was no exultation. There was, instead, a sense this was not about him.

The sideline reporter approached Mahomes with her question, but was immediately interrupted by a Chiefs player, who exclaimed “Give him his respect! Give him his respect!” The reporter continued with her question, “What can you say about the job you and your team did?”

Mahomes begins to respond with thankfulness to God before he is again interrupted by another teammate, who interjects, “Burrowhead my ass! It’s Mahomes’ house,” a second reference to the doubts that swirled around Mahomes injury status.

But Patrick Mahomes could not be distracted from what he knew was the real truth of this day. He had a week to grasp his vulnerability, the gifts that God had given him, and how close he came to not playing. Showing the same determination and focus that makes him such an elite athlete, Mahomes returned to what was clearly at the top of his list: “First of all, I want to thank God, man. He healed my body this week, to battle through that he gave me the strength to be out here.”

God did not answer the human need to win. There were no magic cures to perfect health. He thanked God after six days of doctors, trainers, devices, and coaches working endlessly to cure him, for God giving him a chance. This was no perfunctory gratitude. Though his teammates repeatedly pointed to Mahomes as the hero he is and credited his status for their victory, the quarterback pointed beyond himself.

I, and everyone else watching, momentarily flashed back on those moments when our bodies had failed us. I thought of when I was laid in a bed with a burst blood vessel in my brain. And God simply healed me. My doctors admitted that they did not. Instead, the miracle of a body created with millions of miracles, was healed.

Years ago, at the end of a wonderful meal with a terrific Yale doctor, I asked the excited question my mind leapt to amid his stories of incredible progress in medical technologies. “So do you think we will simply end disease in the next hundreds of years, will you simply be able to cure anybody of everything?

“Well, I do not know,” he said. “I do know that doctors really do not ‘cure’ anything. Doctors stabilize the body, stop the cascade of problems. We put the body in a position to cure itself.”

That doctor died twenty years ago, in his eighties, knowing that. And I think he knew God, too. God is where we simply cannot be. We can live our lives in the love that Mahomes had for all those on the field with him last night. And we can also live in the helpless gratitude we all feel when we simply cannot help ourselves.

Every day. God made us with our disease and our desires, and we are sometimes left knowing a power that we cannot understand. God is revealed in plain sight, even to the merely mortal gods who walk among us.

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One response to “The G.O.A.T. and God”

  1. […] their family and their coaches and teammates. That conversation already started this year with Patrick Mahomes crediting the heavens for a recovered ankle injury. I’m also recalling the year 2013, in which one Baltimore Ravens player said that the Super Bowl […]

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