I was laying in bed late Saturday night flipping back and forth between the Indianapolis Colts’ third preseason football game and other mindless drivel when my phone rang. It was my son calling. From the basement.
“Dad please tell me it’s not true about Andrew Luck,” he said in a panicked tone.
I flipped back to the game. There was Andrew, standing on the sideline in blue shorts and a Colts t-shirt laughing and high-giving with all the other players.
“If what’s true?” I asked, figuring an announcement about his status for Week 1 of the regular season had leaked out on social media. Then my phone notifications blew up.
ESPN was publishing a report from NFL guru Adam Schefter that our franchise quarterback, the best QB prospect in a generation, the one we offloaded Peyton Manning’s last 4 season and two Super Bowl appearance for, was retiring at age 29. And Adam Schefter never makes mistakes with these kinds of things.
Indy’s renewed excitement for another 10-year run as an NFL elite exited Lucas Oil Stadium with a weepy Andrew Luck, who confirmed the unthinkable in a hastily-convened post-game press conference. It’s just a game, right? Yeah, right.
I’m not one for “quick takes.” Twitter, Facebook, and the 24 hour news cycle has turned us all into quick draws when it comes to cultural commentary. I’ve fallen victim to this myself, and I usually regret it. Half the world has come to his defense and the other half is burning his #12 jersey. Honestly, I have mixed feelings.
I’ll save the social commentary for others, but over the years I have trained my instincts to look for Gospel application in just about everything (just ask my kids). And I see some here.
My eyes didn’t go to the field or to the podium on Saturday night, they were drawn to a quote reprinted in multiple publications from a recent recounting of last January’s playoff loss to Kansas City. It seems that after an 18-point drubbing where he played less than stellar football, Andrew bounded out of the post-game locker room with a huge smile on his face and grabbed his fiancé’s hand as they walked into the offseason. Why was this fierce competitor so happy after such an awful showing? Luck responded:
“Something I learned last year, that if my worth as a human was going to be tied into how I did – the result of my performance in a football game – then I was going to have…a real (unhappy) life.”
I don’t know Andrew Luck’s faith, but he unknowingly swerved right up against a Gospel truth with this revelation. Whether you’re a multimillion dollar quarterback, an ER nurse, a property manager, or a fry cook, your work is incapable of carrying the weight of your identity. In fact, nothing we manufacture in this life is capable of carrying our identity.
Only Jesus can do that.
This is the power of the Gospel. We can rest in a status that is secured, not by our work, but by the finished work of Jesus. And when Jesus defines our worth, our work can become what it was always intended to be:
Worship to God and love to our fellow man.
Our performance no longer defines us, it’s an expression of God’s image stamped upon our lives and resurrected by the finished work of Christ.
I don’t know if Andrew Luck is headed there, but his journey reveals something really important. If you’re rooting your identity in your work, in your performance, you’re going to be a miserable human being. But if you’re identity is rooted in Jesus, your work – no matter what it is – can finally become the beautiful expression of a Gospel-redeemed life it was always intended to be. That’s true for NFL quarterbacks and for your job, too.
It sounds like Andrew Luck has found an identity outside of football. I hope he ultimately finds it in Jesus. I hope you do, too.