We are into the NFL season.   I am pulling for the  Minnesota Vikings.  I have to admit that my bride and I get  “jacked up” over our team.  The Star Tribune recently had an article in which  Sam Bradford, our quarterback, talked about his faith.  The bar has been raised high for this coming season.  Our quarterback in under a lot of pressure.  He acknowledged that his faith helps him handle the stress. “A lot of it is my faith and knowing the Lord has a plan for me, and I put my trust in him.”

The sports writer, Brian Murphy observed, “Relinquishing oneself to a higher power is counter intuitive to a profession driven by control freaks, its simplicity almost too much for  data driven fans who define players by algorithms and fantasy rankings and wanting Bradford to deliver wins.”  Bradford talks of giving up control. “You give up control of your life to God and you allow Him to take control of your life.  We get in our own ways a lot of times, but by turning it over to Him and coming in here every day and focusing on what I can do to become a better quarterback….”

Now I have learned not to put too much stock in what professional athletics say about their faith.  However, I would like to take Bradford’s expression of faith at face value.  Yes, it takes  lot of faith to put our trust in God and get out of “the driver’s seat.”  The Message puts it straight forward in  Matt.  16:24-26, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead.  You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am.  Don’t run from suffering, embrace it.  Follow me and I’ll show you how.  Self-help is no help at all.  Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to find yourself, your true self.”

Surrender is not a  popular concept with men.  It seems to implies failure or defeat, while for women surrender seems more like abuse or use of power.  For men surrendering  feels like a diminishment of our manhood.  We prefer autonomy and control, wanting to be in “the driver’s seat,” thinking self-control will bring  freedom, significance and respect.   Yet if we are honest there is much in life that is unpredictable  and out of our control.  Rather than facing the vulnerability and risks of life, we choose to be willful, living with resolve and self effort. For Christian men  will power and discipline can easily produce a religious self with  a “clinched fist.”  The result can be  rigid and prideful person, lacking authenticity, vitality and spontaneity. God save us from men with this kind of religious presence.

In the church this is expressed in the words of the Pharisee, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men…even like this tax collector (Luke 18:11).  But the tax collector prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (13).  Jesus said of these two men, “This tax man, not the other, went home make right with God.  If you walk around with your nose in the air,  you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself” (Luke 18:14 – Message).

There are many men who do not know who they are in Christ, because they have built up a hard shell around their inner life, choking off the vitality of the Spirit, who brings forth our true self.    It is sad how often our “spiritual self improvement projects” really protect us from ourselves, while only reinforcing our false religious self. Remember it always, “letting go and letting God.”