Love Never Fails

31st of March, 2016

God’s been teaching me a lot over these last few months, through both free agency and fatherhood.

I wrote about those free agency lessons a couple of weeks ago, but basically I learned not to put my faith in other people. This has been a hard-learned lesson, since I’m a self-identified people pleaser. Somehow I had the idea that if people were pleased with me and my performance on the field, then I would feel great about the final result. As I now know, that’s not always the case.

But free agency isn’t the only thing God is using to break me of this people-pleasing mentality. He’s also using my experience of being a dad.

I have a 15-month-old son, and he’s the most calm, cool, collected toddler you can imagine. But he’s still a toddler. And I’m learning that kids of that age do what they want, when they want, whether you like it or not.

Here’s what I mean. Toward the end of last season, my wife and son went to Africa for a wedding. When they returned after 10 days away, I figured he’d greet me with his same old lovable smile. Boy was I wrong. Instead, I was greeted with tears, tears, and yes, more tears. Not tears of joy, mind you: tears of terror. The terror of a young child who is either being abducted or being forced to go to the pediatrician.

I came to find out later that this separation anxiety is totally normal for a kid of his age. But for the time being I was devastated, trying frantically to do anything and everything imaginable to make my son like me again. Needless to say, nothing magical happened. It just took time.

Fast forward to today, and we’re going through another one of those phases. One moment I pick up my son and he smiles, and the next moment he doesn’t want me to even touch him. As any parent will tell you, this kind of thing is hard. But I think God is teaching me something in it. He’s teaching me that no matter if I feel loved back, I must love. And no matter if my son “likes” me or not, I’m still his dad, and that’s not going to change.

That’s because our relationship is deeper than emotions and outbursts. And love is always better than like. Like is temporary and changing. Love never fails. It’s that love I hold on to when things don’t look like they’re going my way. I know God loves me and is using every tough situation to mold me and grow me into who he made me to be. And he’s doing the same for you.

So the next time that tough situation comes your way, whatever it is, don’t be too eager to get out of it. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.


On Solid Ground

18th of March, 2016

To be quite candid, free agency sucks. That is, unless your last name is Suh.

People constantly let you down. Teams assign a value to you as a player (and intrinsically as a person) and that price tag, for the time being, is what you, as a player, are “worth.”

Let’s be real, there’s nothing worse than people assigning a value to you, especially when that value doesn’t match up with what you know your value to be. I had a coach a few years ago who always said, “You are what you put on tape.” The mindset being that you need to have great practices and great games because they define who you are as a player.

I always hated and still to this day hate that statement. It’s like telling a student, “you’re only as smart as your SAT score” or an employee that they’re only as good as their most recent compilation of work done. I’m a believer that you are much more than what you put on tape. And you are much more than your last grade, assignment, or report.

See, there’s a problem with big contracts and the little ones too. The problem with the smaller ones is almost self-explanatory. Teams don’t value you as much as you may think they should. Talk about a shot to the ego. But the problems with the bigger contracts are often worse.

If getting a big contract in the NFL is your ultimate goal, two problems may arise. First, you may never get it. And second, you may get it, but let’s say your production dips a little bit. Now, all of a sudden, you’re no longer worth what that contract says you’re worth. Or your salary, or your social status or your job title, or your JOB.

I’m done believing that I “am what I put on tape” because what I put on tape fluctuates too much. Jobs change, titles change, Twitter followers change, whatever other irrelevant measuring stick changes too. They always do.

There’s gonna come a day when I no longer play in the NFL. If my worth is tied up in that temporary job, I’m hopeless. Instead, I’m choosing to put my hope in one person, the “author and finisher of my faith.” I’m putting my hope in the one who loves me even on my worst day, not just if I have a few good games. I’m putting my hope in the one who will look at me and say, “well done my good and faithful servant,” simply because I believed in him and allowed him to take the lead in my life. I’m putting my hope in a solid rock that never changes and never wavers. I’m putting my hope in Christ, and I would love for you to do the same.

On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground (including the NFL) is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.


Your Inner Kid

16th of March, 2016

People often wonder why I do the things I do. The short answer: Jesus. The long answer? That may take a little bit of explaining.

Growing up, never in a million years did I think I’d become a professional athlete. On the contrary, I quite literally thought that the world would come to an end before that happened.

Well, I was wrong. And now I’m here, playing in the NFL and living the childhood dream of millions of kids in America. Recently I got a chance to spend time with some kids and I asked them about their dreams. Some of the answers amazed me. When asked what her dreams were, one little girl responded, “I want to be a surgeon. My parents are surgeons and all their friends are as well. I’ve seen the people they’ve helped and I want to help people.” Another said, “I want to build a place where people without homes can live and have shelter.” When asked about where this desire was born, she replied, “I drive in the car with my parents and we drive by people with cardboard signs who don’t have food. I know they need help and I wanna help them.”

This is beautiful. So beautiful.

We all have dreams, big dreams to change the world. Yet somewhere along the line something happens. Fear, doubt, shame, and blame creep in. We go from caring for the homeless man, to accusing him of crimes or addictions he may or may not be facing, hoping he doesn’t make eye contact and playing out the negative he would do if we did in fact give him some spare change.

When I become that person, I want that little girl back. That girl who sees the man for who he is and loves him. Period. No blaming, no accusing. Just love. This is why I spend so much time around kids. Kids dream. Kids believe. Kids don’t fear.

I was asked by a student last week what was the biggest obstacle that stood in the way of me accomplishing my goals. My answer? Fear. Fear of failure. And, often times, fear of the outcome of success. I got blank stares. It was as if the kids thought I was crazy! “Why would you be scared to mess up?” I could hear them thinking, “Even worse, why would you be scared to do it right?! . . . Ms. Johnson, this guy needs some help.”

We laugh, but it’s true. Kids don’t care about the outcome. They enjoy the process. Better yet, the moment. All that matters is the moment. There is no calculation of pros and cons, whys and why nots, there is just DO. And while there are certainly downsides to this mindset (here we go with the pros and cons again . . .) the advantages far outweigh the costs.

So to anyone reading this post, do yourself a favor and bring out that inner kid. We all have him or her. And there’s always a right time. You’ll know it. And when it comes, just do it.


Be Different

10th of March, 2016

Recently I met the most wonderful little girl while speaking to some students at a school in Dallas. We talked about dreaming big and setting yourself apart. Though I love public speaking, the highlight of my day was meeting this student after my speech. Her name was Farrah and she was the most interesting girl in the world.

Though she was currently going to school in the United States, Farrah had previously lived in Jordan and Australia. Her dad is a master chef and traveled around the world catering to kings, queens, princes, and princesses. Moving can be tough, but I can only imagine the huge worldview that she’s gaining and she doesn’t even know it.

I know, because I’ve lived it. I was born in Dallas to Nigerian parents. We lived in the United States, but our household was as African as they come. From the foods to the discipline, I grew up differently from my friends. We even traveled to Nigeria every other year to spend Christmas and New Years in the village where my dad grew up. From a very young age I had the chance to see, experience, and live a completely different culture. And this experience opened up my eyes to the great big world that exists outside of our country.

Words cannot describe the benefit of opening up your eyes and learning about people who look, act, or think differently than you. Steve Jobs, for instance, made sure to surround himself with people who thought, talked, and walked differently than him, and it made his company that much better. In fact, for a while Apple’s motto was “Think different.”

Being different is a good thing and an attribute that should be embraced. Embrace other cultures, ethnicities, and races. You’ll be shocked by the outcome. If fear is what is keeping you from opening up, I implore you: be different.


Be You

4th of March, 2016

Comparison is the thief of all joy.

As part of my off-season conditioning, I usually find new places to train. In one of my recent sessions, I trained alongside a player in the Canadian Football League who has dreams of making to the NFL. Throughout the workout I could tell he was sizing me up, trying to see what, if anything, differentiates he and I. I could tell that he was doing that because I usually do the exact same thing.

One of the biggest lessons I’m learning in life is that I am much better off not comparing myself to the next guy. Often times when I do compare myself, I find myself either feeling less adequate, thus deflating my ego, or better than, thus inflating it. There rarely has been a time when I said, “I’m just like that guy!” Usually the response, whether verbalized or internalized, is one of disdain or a feeling of jealousy. Instead of being genuinely happy for the other person, usually – if they’re doing something really awesome in my eyes – I feel a little sense of loss. Like I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do. It’s like the happiness I should have for them is replaced with a sadness for what I’m not or should be doing. Or I try to change to be like them, and that never works. Comparison is the thief of all joy.

We even see this phenomenon in some of our presidential hopefuls. Donald Trump is known, for lack of better terms, to speak his mind and badmouth people. Marco Rubio, for his part, hasn’t traditionally been known for this. However, as of recently we’ve seen Rubio attempt to take on some of these tactics. Badmouthing other candidates and being more “Trump-like.” This hasn’t worked and things have gotten even uglier than they already were. And let’s not even get started about Chris Christie

Needless to say, what I’m learning is that when I don’t compare myself or try to change and be like someone else, I get my joy back. I’m happy with what I’ve done because it’s what I’ve done and it’s my best. And there’s the key. Do YOUR best. Not someone else’s best, YOUR best. Once you do that, you can genuinely be happy for others because you’re not them, and they’re not you. Colossians 3:23 says “In everything you do, work as if you’re working for the Lord and not for man.”

God wants your best. Not someone else’s best.