Troy Polamalu: Faith First

If you watched last week’s NFL playoff game between the Denver Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers, you saw Tim Tebow lead his team to victory in overtime.  In doing so, he did what many said could not be done.  Tebow is not a prototypical NFL quarterback, yet he does a lot of things that the experts say he can’t do.  Watching Tebow do what the experts say he should not be able to do is one the reasons that he is so much fun to watch.  Another reason that Tebow is fun to watch is because he takes his relationship with the Lord seriously.  He expresses gratitude regularly, and he allows his faith to frame his outlook and his worldview.  Recently, a reporter was asking about his performance in a game, a game in which Tebow had played well. Tebow wanted to talk about the sick kid that he had visited in the hospital.  To him, what mattered about the game was that it might have given encouragement to the boy in the hospital.  Tebow takes a lot of heat for the public way he lives his faith and for the unorthodox way he plays the game.  What I like about him is that he seems to know the difference between a game and life.  A game is just a game, but his faith is his life.

What I did not realize while I was watching last week’s game was that there was another player on the opposite side of the ball who also takes his faith seriously.  Troy Polamalu, the Steeler’s All-Pro safety, is an Orthodox Christian.  Orthodoxy is the Eastern wing of the earliest Christian church, which split into the Orthodox and Catholic churches in 1054.  In Knoxville, St. George Greek Orthodox Church on Kingston Pike is an expression of this tradition.

Here are some quotes from Troy Polamalu that give an indication of how his faith shapes and forms his life.

“Football is part of my life but not life itself,” he says. “Football doesn’t define me.  It’s what I do [and] how I carry out my faith.”

“When I got injured, I learned so much from it spiritually, just thanking God for the health that I had when I was healthy.”

“People have this idea that the more pious and devout I am, the more successful I am.  Which is very dangerous.  If you look at faith in that way, you’re bound to fail at both — spiritually and in your career.”

“First of all, I’m a Christian so my prayer life really comes first.  Second of all, I’m a husband so my wife comes before anything else.  If I have time to do anything else after that, I do it, but I don’t sacrifice any time with her.”

“It’s really easy for me.  I love my faith and I know that’s first. …. I really think I know what’s important in my life and that’s my faith and my wife.”

On  growing orchids“I’ve tried but I don’t have enough patience for orchids.  They’re so sensitive.  Here’s what happened recently: It’s funny, I spent all last year trying to nurse this orchid to health.  Finally spring comes along and I thought, I give up, I’m putting it outside.  A month later, I come back to Pittsburgh and guess what?  I look outside and it’s blooming like crazy!  I can’t do what only God can do.”

“. . . you cannot have an experience of God without humility.”

“I think talking is overrated.  Anybody in the world can talk about doing anything.  The hardest thing is to do it.  It’s important for my son to understand, for example, why we pray, why we go to church.  It’s important for him to grow up in an atmosphere of watching us do it.”

We are not alone.  We journey together with a host of believers, some who are famous and some who are unknown, toward the life to which God has called us.  May we strengthen one another as we go.

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