But it wasn't all lighthearted fun. Instead of being a diversion from the things of life, the Sunday Challenges have on several occasions had to address loss and suffering, even though the Gators went undefeated in the regular season.
Then the Gators did lose last Saturday and the blogosphere, and to a certain extent the web, exploded with posts on the meaning of John 16:33 and Tebow crying. In that maelstrom of farewell emails, hate mail, and Tebow defense emails, we received one introducing us to the story of Sylvie. And that single post made the whole effort worth it.
Back in September, as the Gators' season began, Sylvie lost her baby daughter and has been coping with that loss while we've all been riding the roller-coaster of the 2009 season. And like the rest of us sports fans, she seems to have found some refuge in watching football to get through the day, or even the moment. And through the simplicity, and even foolishness, of writing Bible verses on eye black, she found comfort in her grief.
Now, I’m not one for college ball. I love the NFL, but I’m watching the UF-Alabama game anyway. I’ve heard all the hype about Tebow, but really never gave him much interest.
I looked up today the scripture he had on his eye black, except that I looked up John 16:33 incorrectly thinking it was John 16:22. Here’s 16:22:
“Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
If that is not my daughter speaking to me through God, through a college football player…. I don’t know WHAT IS!!! I just cried and cried, and smiled and was comforted.
I am getting better every day. There is relief in her death, because she is free from pain and she is absolutely SAFE. But it is simply UNNATURAL to be seperated from my baby. I described it to a friend recently that living without her is like being forced to live underwater without any gills. I have to come up for air all the time and it is exhausting and HARD. But, I can do it! Just like dolphins can do it by design- so can I. (PS- GO FINS!!!)
So anyway, college football has changed my life.
And by the way- I looked up John 16:33 and I already had highlighted it in my bible on 6/18/09. Tebow and I are literally on the same page.
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The generous people at Nathan's Prayer emailed thanking us for posting her story, and told us the greater details of her story. After reading the email several times, we pulled out our Bibles and reread the story of Job. We won't divulge the broader tragedy that has struck this lady, but please believe us when we say we believe she has lost more than Job. The losses we have not mentioned are enough to fell most of us, and the loss of a child seems incomprehensible. To describe her struggle as "exhausting and HARD" seems somehow an understatement. From what little we know, we admire and wonder at her courage and strength and thank God for his grace.
So here's our challenge. Please join us in praying for her. Right now.
God bless and keep Sylvie, make your face to shine upon her, and give her your peace. Like Job, restore her body-soul-and spirit, restore to her a family, and all that concerns her. Give her the desires of her heart, and like Job, make the story of her journey through suffering a story of victory, and ultimately a story of hope and comfort to others. Amen.
Thank you. And may God bless you as well.