Hope Personified

by Will Searcy

This past weekend, I was scrolling through Twitter to get updated on the day’s news when a video caught my eye. It showed a boy receiving a football jersey as a gift, and his reaction was not what you would expect. https://twitter.com/WendiEden/status/1051526832196018176

While I had a time in my life when my appreciation for a good jersey may have bordered on fanatical, I never had such a gift move me to tears. Then again, I never received a gift quite like this. “Daniel,” as he is called in the video, has an amputated right hand, was wearing football pads, and he had just received a Shaquem Griffin replica jersey. When I realized that, I had an emotional reaction of my own. I sent the video to my wife, and upon seeing it; she likely had the same response as most people. She said, “why’s he getting so emotional over a football jersey?”

The simple answer is that it was not just any football jersey. Shaquem Griffin is a linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks, and although he is a rookie drafted in the later rounds without high expectations, he has been good enough to earn a starting position from Day One. This is an impressive feat for any first year player in the highly competitive National Football League, and it is especially so, because like this little boy, Shaquem Griffin also has only one hand.

I could not help but imagine what must have been flashing through Daniel’s mind as he sobbed into that Griffin jersey. How many times did the other children tell him he couldn’t play? How many times was he picked last when choosing teams on the playground? How many times did the other boys mock him? How many times did they tell him he wasn’t good enough? How often did he feel different, left out, and alone? How difficult had his life been each and every day?

Then, someone comes along on the biggest stage, playing the sport he loves, and goes out and proves that he can play, that he is good enough, that he does belong. What validation for that boy! What acceptance! And more than anything else, what hope!

While I suspect I could never understand all the emotions that went into that beautiful moment captured in the video, I believe we all can relate to having obstacles in our lives that overwhelm us and seem, at least at times, impossible to overcome. We all have hurts in our lives, and while they often are not visible to the outside world, we still carry them with us throughout our day as heavy burdens heaped upon our backs. Sometimes, we let these hurts dictate our lives. We let ourselves believe that we are different, that no one will understand, that no one will love us because of our hurts, that we are alone.

Of course, that is never true. We are never alone, and we are only slaves to that which hurts us, if we allow ourselves to be.

When I watch that boy crying into and hugging that jersey, my heart fills, because I see proof of something that is often invisible to the human eye. I see that hope exists. I am reminded of the importance of hope, and more importantly, I am reminded that my hope in the Lord should be as pure and as passionate as Daniel’s outpouring of emotions upon the meaning behind that gift. Because while the gift he received is one of the more meaningful gifts I have ever seen anyone get, we all have received a gift of an even higher meaning. We have received a gift that frees us from all our hurts. We have received the gift of grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God. We have received the free gift of the Holy Spirit.

“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5

While we all suffer hurts of different shapes, sizes, and shades, let us remember that our hope is greater than our hurts, and that there is no amount of suffering we can endure that is beyond the redemption of God. And, when it all gets to be too much, let’s remember Daniel and remind ourselves that just as he experienced a beautiful moment of validation, acceptance, understanding, and hope, our Lord stands with open arms to offer that same gift to us through His Son and His Holy Spirit each and every day.

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