Who Needs Who?

It’s early March, and for the first time in nearly four years nobody really cares what Brett Favre is doing right now. If that seems odd it’s probably because we’ve gotten used to having around the clock coverage on what the patron saint of Wrangler Jeans will be doing in the fall.

The speculative frenzy wasn’t exactly unwarranted; as a two-time league MVP, Super Bowl Champion, and holder of nearly every passing record known to man, Number 4 was an icon for achievement as a pro quarterback.

In fact, the increasingly operatic nature of his public behavior seemed to demand that we all paid attention. Unfortunately, the increased coverage combined with a “need to be noteworthy” meant that we also got to learn the sordid details of his personal life.

Whether it was through cell phone photos or contractual obligations, Brett Favre made a spectacle out of overstaying his welcome and in the process gained a reputation as someone who pushed himself on others on his own terms, regardless of whether or not he was wanted.

For contrast, it’s been two years since we’ve speculated on what another recently retired quarterback is doing, and I’m not referring to someone unsuccessful. Kurt Warner was also a two-time league MVP and Super Bowl champion. While he didn’t play as long or produce the same gaudy career statistics as Brett Favre, he was able to do something that Brett couldn’t… walk away clean.

This post isn’t about carving up Favre and heaping accolades on Warner. Kurt has a stellar reputation; reward in itself, and Brett has already been mercilessly dissected, fairly or not. The contrast on display here isn’t about the behavior of the men involved, but the nature of their leadership as revealed by their behavior.

Only behavior demonstrates character strength and weakness, and our behavior reveals that none of us have perfect character. While each of us is exceedingly strong in some ways we’re also frighteningly weak in others. Both men are highly intelligent, skilled, and competitive, but one of them appears to have an edge when it comes to control.

While Favre’s off-field meltdowns informed our opinions on his private life, they also mirrored his game play. Favre was as capable of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat as he was jamming a victory down defeat’s gullet… through the sheer force of his instinctive will. Brett always did what Brett felt needed to be done to achieve success, and his successes were as inspiring as his failures were disappointing.

You don’t steal nicknames like “The Gambler” or “Gunslinger” from Kenny Rogers without being a risk taker.  While being willing risk the future to gain something in the present can yield great rewards on the field, athletic rewards are impermanent. Games, seasons, and careers always come to an end and when they do, athletes are faced with the challenging task of living the rest of their lives.

The Packers didn’t need Favre and they wanted him to walk away.  He couldn’t walk away from the game because he needed an NFL team. Without one how would he take risks, press his luck, and prove himself on a weekly basis? Without a team, he wasn’t a quarterback and if he wasn’t a quarterback, who was he?

While it’s obvious that walking away from fortune and glory was easier for Warner than Favre, it would be a mistake to assume that it was easy. In actuality the decision was gut wrenching… because an NFL team needed Kurt Warner.

They didn’t need Kurt for his strong arm or quick release, both of which brought a mediocre Cardinal team within seconds of a title in 2009; they needed the character and leadership that Warner brought to the team. The Cardinals have been a mess since Warner retired following the 2009 season and it’s not because they don’t have a strong-armed man on the roster.

Warner’s leadership wasn’t about what he could achieve through risk management; it was about who he was becoming as a person. Kurt’s behavior revealed that his self-control and measured approach to living didn’t stem from athletic prowess or natural strength, it flowed from a realization that his talent, accomplishments, and character paled when placed against the person of Jesus. Warner is a man searching for the completeness of character that only comes from accepting Christ’s character as his own.

Believers receive the Godly character of Christ when we repent of our own desires and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit into the life that God is calling us to. Because of his dependence on Christ and the Spirit’s leading, Kurt Warner didn’t NEED to be a quarterback; he GOT to be a quarterback. That subtle difference is what kept him from an attitude of entitlement. That attitude blessed the world.

What about you? Do your decisions flow from your natural skills and talents in conjunction with your innate desires? If so, then your team doesn’t need you, you need them and they’ll be ok after you’re gone.

Are you leading from the Spirit directed character of Christ? Is your direction set after seeking God in prayer and hearing his word?  If so you’ve become an essential piece in God’s Kingdom work because he’s using you to accomplish his purposes in the world. I’m constantly being reminded that God doesn’t need us to accomplish his purposes in the world, we need him to accomplish his purposes in us.

There are only two kinds of character, the bad character we’re born with and God’s Character, which we can be blessed with. We need Godly character more than we need a place on the team, and the teams we’re leading need leaders with Godly character more than they need our skills, talent, and passion.

This is essential individually as well as corporately because when our career ends it’s only Godly character that allows us to walk off the field the way God desires… clean.

4 Responses to “Who Needs Who?”

  1. Sharon O March 16, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    The attitude of entitlement is such a destructive force. Godly character is so important. May we all seek to have a change of perspective. God Bless you as you challenge us all.

    • Jon March 16, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

      You’re so right Sharon, I’m most often tempted to think too highly of myself right after an accomplishment that I made out of my talent… God is teaching me to rest in his character and to let him direct what talents he has blessed me with!

  2. Kenny March 16, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    Well done.
    All that being said… if #4 is playing intermural football during the Lockout on payperview, I’ll be a subsciber!

    • Jon March 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

      Me too, but I’d rather play with Kurt… especially against Cal Baptist.

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