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What Happens After We Choke?

It is amazing to me how often someone in sports is labeled a choke artist or a choker.  Choking as it relates to athletics is the inability to perform up to your normal level due to the situation and pressure of the moment.  Nobody wants to be labeled a choker.  We all want to be that clutch player who always can be depended on no matter what the circumstances.

Scott Norwood was a kicker for the Buffalo Bills from 1985-1991.  He was an integral part of the rise of Buffalo to a championship caliber team!  On October 25, 1987 he kicked a 27 yard game winning field goal in overtime to cap off a 21 point comeback 34-31 win over the Dolphins! In 1988 he was named first team All-Pro  with clutch kicking that helped the Bills advance to the AFC Championship Game!  He was 32/37 in field goal attempts and made all of his extra points!

Scott will long be remembered however for one kick that he missed.  It occurred in Super Bowl 25 against the New York Giants.  Never mind that the Giants controlled the ball most of the game!  They had the ball almost 40 minutes compared to the Bills 20.  Never mind the fact that the Bills had other opportunities in the game!  Everyone will point to the Bills lining up for a game winning field goal attempt from 47 yards away with 8 seconds left trailing 20-19.  Scott kicked it well with plenty of distance, but the ball sailed just wide to the right of the goal post.  Scott played the next year too, but after that season ended he was waived for a younger kicker named Steve Christie.  Scott left football and always will be remembered for his one failure instead of his many successes.  In the final analysis though, Scott was a great kicker!  He ranks third in Bills history in field goal percentage and second in points scored!

I watched a basketball game recently involving a team I follow with passion.  The game was a road game for my team, but we were staying right with them!  It was tight coming right down to the end!  The other team was up by 2 points with less than 20 seconds remaining.  Our point guard made a dash for the basket and somehow got the ball up on the rim as he was fouled!  The ball rolled around and dropped in the basket!  His ensuing free throw was good and my team was up by 1.  To their credit the other team attacked quickly.  A couple of passes and a turn around 10 footer and we were down by 1 with less than 10 seconds left.  Our point guard made a mad dash again.  Trying to duplicate his earlier feat he rose in the air in a flying lunge.  His shot was blocked though and there was a mad scramble.  Our center, we’ll call Mike got a hold on the ball and attempted to put it up, but he was grabbed and fouled with1.1 seconds left.  He would get 2 shots.  Mike was having a very nice game!  He was our go to guy down low and they were having a hard time stopping him.  He was scoring and rebounding well!  In fact without him my team probably would have been down 10 or 15 points!  Here he was though at the free throw line and the other teams fans were doing everything they could to make him miss.  His first shot looked good.  It was straight and right on target, but it came up a little short,  hit the front of the rim and bounced around and off.  His coach could see just how upset Mike was so he called a quick time out thinking maybe he could calm him down.  After the time out Mike stepped up to the line and missed again.  The other team rebounded and the game was soon over.  As the TV camera hit him Mike was devastated with tears in his eyes!  He thought that because of him the game had been lost.

I was listening to the post game show on the radio and they interviewed the coach.  To my surprise the coach seemed almost upbeat when they talked to him.  I know he was feeling deeply hurt by what just had happened.  Yet, he was more concerned about his player and how the team was going to pick up his spirits.  He mentioned that they would get back to the gym in the next few days and work on free throws and maybe if that situation arose again he would knock them down!  He was looking at the future instead of dwelling on the past!  His team still has the conference tournament in front of them and there are other important games to be played!

Simon Peter was one of the 12 disciples.  Peter was outgoing and brash!  In his mind he was the main go to guy for Jesus!  In his mind he was “Mr. Clutch” One time as Jesus walked on the water toward their boat he blurted out “Let me come to you”.  Jesus said come and Simon Peter actually walked on the water for a few steps until he took his eyes off of Jesus and sank!  Simon Peter was part of  the dispute that arose between the  disciples as to which one was the greatest. The Bible doesn’t go into detail but I can imagine, knowing his personality, that Simon Peter was loudly making his case for being the greatest!   Jesus had to correct them by saying the greatest is the one who serves.  Simon Peter told Jesus “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”  Jesus told him that before the rooster crows today you will deny three times that you know me.  Peter surely thought to himself that Jesus was surely mistaken!  If there was ever anything for 100 percent sure it was that Simon Peter could be counted on!  Yet,  just as Jesus said it would, it came to pass.  Peter denied knowing his Lord three times.  In the clutch situation when Jesus needed him most, Peter thought only of his own safety.  After the third denial he broke down and wept bitterly.  He had committed the biggest choke of all time, and he felt like his life was over.

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so they might anoint Jesus’ body.  But when they got to the tomb the large stone was rolled away and a young man dressed in a white robe was there.  He said “Don’t be alarmed”  Jesus the Nazarene who was crucified has risen! Go, tell his disciples and Peter.  Did you catch that last part?  AND PETER!  Peter, the one who made the biggest choke ever was still on the team!  God was looking ahead instead of looking back!  He was looking at Peter’s future instead of dwelling on his past!  Remember when he was walking to Jesus until he got distracted? After “the choke” he kept walking on water in the spiritual sense! In the days ahead Peter would proclaim the gospel with enthusiasm and clarity. disregarding his own safety!   He spoke boldly on the day of pentecost proclaiming the good news!  He would be imprisoned and beaten for the name of the Lord.  Through these trials he came away with the attitude that it was an honor to suffer for the cause of the Gospel!  In the new testament you will find the book of Peter! Peter was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things because God didn’t quit on him after he choked!

God looks at our lives in the same way!  We’ve all done things that are shameful.  We have all choked at times under spiritual pressure.  But, God is willing to work with us!  He doesn’t discard us!  We are still on the team! He is looking to our future, not dwelling on our past!  He wants to get us back in “the gym” and prepare us for the  battles  ahead!   We may have lost a battle, but the season is still on the line!     By focusing on Jesus, Peters life ended with a trip to Heaven! He is in Heavens Hall of Fame! His writings and deeds are forever in the bible for inspiration to millions and millions that came after him! What happens after we choke?  Great things if we learn from Peter and renew our relationship with God!  After that the sky is the limit!

The next poem is called The Gardener and My Garden II.  It talks about what happens when the Gardener has to start over with our garden after we have neglected it!  Not dwelling on the past, he prepares us for the future!

Coming up next “The Gardener and My Garden II

The Gardener and My Garden II

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

The gardener stopped by
the other day
to look at my flowers
in his usual way

But I told him the weeds
had taken it over
and I didn’t have
a garden anymore

Can you ever forgive me?
I heard myself say
If your advice I had taken,
I’d have flowers today

Those weeds that took over
at first didn’t look bad
But look out there now,
the view is so sad

I guess it’s too late
This mistake I have found,
trying to do it myself,
I’ve ruined the ground

I’m sorry, Mr. Gardener
Your work is so fine
You better see other gardens
so they don’t end up like mine

The gardener turned to me
There was hope in his voice
We can start a new garden
I’ll make it your choice

Let me pull all those weeds
Now give me the reign
to plant some new flowers
all over again

Let me come out early
and work every day
Let me make this ground over
Don’t get in the way

Your flowers will grow beautifully
as you will see
when you take yourself out
and leave the gardening to me

He worked oh so carefully
but it didn’t seem fair,
each day I looked out
he was always there

I told him I’d pay him
He said, No this is free
When they look at these flowers
they’ll be looking at me.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
he is a new creation; the old has
gone, the new has come!

II Corinthians 5:17

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5 thoughts on “What Happens After We Choke?

  1. Excellent analogy!

  2. Lowell Rinker on said:

    Well done, Lewis….

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  5. Thank you for taking the time to read this! I appreciate everyone who comments new and old! You are enhancing what I’m trying to do! :-)

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