Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Story Tebow's Eye Black Tells

The past few days, even hours, in the wake of the Gators' loss to Alabama have been fascinating, and maybe even instructive. When you strip away all the football talk, it's interesting what's left. And what was left has been a growing discussion of the importance of Tim Tebow's eye black and a fascination with the tears he cried on Saturday night.

And if you consider the amount of web traffic after last year's National Championship game and the 90+ million google searches of John 3:16, then the loss in the SEC Championship game and John 16:33 have had a greater impact. Strangely, loss and suffering do seem to leave a more indelible mark than victory.

Below is a look at the combined Google trends combining "John" and "Tebow". The three spikes that you see are the 2oo8 Championship Game and John 3:16, the middle spike is Tebow's concussion, and the final the SEC Championship game and John 16:33. (You can click on the image for Google trends - we also fully acknowledge that Google trends gives a normalized average of searches on Google, and not an accurate number of total web searches).

When you look at the trends for just "Tebow" the highest spike was Tebow's concussion, and not either of the championship games:

Looking at the trends for "Tebow" alone you get a sense of his growing fame and interest to the public. The first spike is likely the news that he was going to play for Florida. Next winning the Heisman in 2007, then the 2008 NC game, and then the concussion. But when you add "John" the two most searched Bible verses that he has worn, the search index numbers nearly double.

Alone, on Jan 9, 2009 Tebow's index number is below 20.0. John 3:16 for the same day is just above 30.0. Combined, the index is well over 40.0. And then Tebow and John 16:33 combined again on Dec. 5, 2009, are over 40.0.

So what is our point? We have a couple. As Gators we were hoping for the fairy tale season. The Gators going undefeated, Tebow winning another Heisman, and it being the best season the Gator Nation, and possibly even history, has witnessed. But it wasn't. And as Christians, we think we should've seen that coming.

Early in his football career at UF, Tebow stated that his priorities were faith, family, academics, and then football. We believe him, which means that he has entrusted his life to God, and from what we know and think we understand of God, it is that God rarely does things the way we think he will.

Is God more glorified in Tebow winning another National Championship or Tebow demonstrating his faith in the face of adversity, defeat, and disappointment? If you look at the great men in the Bible they all went through severe times of testing. Job, Abraham, Joseph, and David to name just a few. The pattern of reaching greatness is being sifted and refined through overcoming adversity, loss, and trials.

For the Tennessee game, Tebow chose Romans 8:28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God-those whom he has called according to his plan.

After the concussion, Tebow's choice for his eye black was I Thessalonians 5:18 : In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

And we all know the choice for the SEC game: John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

Previous to the SECCG we were looking for a pattern in the eye black verses, or a possible narrative line and we thought there wasn't one. We thought that they were random, but after the loss and the addition of John 16:33 we think a pattern did emerge. Tim Tebow has shown us all that God could entrust him with the fame and adulation created by the victories.

We now believe that God has entrusted Tim Tebow with the struggle and the loss. If Google trends is a true indication, more people are interested in what Tim Tebow will do in the wake of a loss than what he believes as a champion. (And to be clear, we don't think God decides football games, but we do believe God uses football games like all other things in Romans 8:28)

His platform has doubled and maybe even tripled, and not diminished, in the loss than in the win. His influence in the Sugar Bowl will be greater than if he had played in the Rose Bowl.

If the fascination and schadenfreude of Tebow's crying is any indication, it's that we as a society know how to celebrate a victory, but do not know how to process and mourn a loss and emerge from it stronger and freer. Hopefully, Tebow and his eye black can be a good example and lesson in this as well.

Psalm 126:5 Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.

Photo: Allen Eyestone
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