“Let It Play”
No matter what it brings, life is designed to be lived by faith in God. Keep living.
One night in July 2008 I had finished up visiting wounded Marines at Bagram Airfield Hospital Afghanistan and headed to the USO facility, about a 10 minute walk away. Every so often the USO would fly in celebrities to boost morale. I hoped to catch a few seconds with NFL quarterback Drew Brees and get an autograph for my brother.
I reached the USO shed just as they were closing the line. I was the last guy allowed in the door. The young soldier ahead of me made a beeline to the smiling slip of a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader (go figure), clearing the path for me to the New Orleans Saints QB.
Shaking his hand as he welcomed me I asked “Is your mother Mina Akins? His eyes widened with understandable surprise. I continued. “I went to high school with her.”
Immediately he exclaimed, “G-P Wildcats!” “Yes! I answered. “And your grandfather taught one of my math classes.” Ray Akins was head coach at Gregory-Portland High and a well known figure in Texas High School football.
Suddenly we were like old friends, talking family, not celebrity. Mina was bright, smart and pretty. She was a member of the cheerleading squad. I remember her happy attitude. She didn’t look down on lowerclassmen like me. And Drew’s grandfather was a tough former Marine; a veteran of Korea. I can still feel his raw emotion in the war stories he told on those days in class when he decided character building was more important than compound fractions.
“My brother loved living in Texas and going to school there.” I said. “Would you to sign an autograph for him?” I wasn’t kidding. My brother still bleeds Wildcat red and blue. He was the one who told me about Mina being Drew’s mother, a fact I hadn’t known.
So it came to pass that in July 2008 at a place 9 and one half time zones from Texas, I walked away with an autographed photo (now enshrined at my brother’s) of Drew Brees with “Go GP Wildcats!” penned in Sharpie.
And just over a year after my encounter with her son, Mina Ruth Akins Brees committed suicide by drug overdose. I lost a classmate. Ray lost a daughter. Drew lost his mom.
As a Navy Chaplain I taught suicide awareness/prevention classes to Marines for 3 years. I researched the findings of a ten-year study by the Centers for Disease Control. And the thread which links almost all suicides is this; people who attempt to kill themselves do so when they are convinced of both the complete hopelessness of their plight and utter helplessness to change it. The pain of living is too great. They’re not willing to let it life play out any more.
No one is immune from encountering this vise-like grip of darkness. Christians know it. I have known it. Our faith identifies its source. Evil lies to us. Sin traps us. Death stalks and kills us.
But that same faith identifies and provides the hope and help we need. God created us to live by trusting him. Christ redeemed us from sin and death. Evil continues to lie, but the Spirit keeps telling us the truth. And so we keep living. We can choose to let it play.
Those who know him say Drew Brees has a genuine faith. Years ago he is reported to have said in an interview; “I live for God, for the faith I have in Him and knowing the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on the cross for me…and all I have to do is just give it my best, commit the rest to him and everything else is taken care of…” Amen to that.
On February 7, 2010 the Saints upset the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. Drew was the MVP. And on Monday October 8, 2018 Drew Brees threw a 62 yard touchdown pass against the Washington Redskins and set the NFL all-time record for career passing yardage. I wish Mina had been there to rejoice with him.
As painful as life can get, please, please keep living. Keep breathing. Let it play out. As agonizing as the despair may become, please endure. Let your pain play into God’s hands. Invite him into it. Include him in it. An unseen but certain hope is ahead.
When despair overwhelms, this counsel seems like such thin and insipid gruel, but I have been there. I have felt that pain and pressure. And by God’s grace somehow I let it play. And I’m here. I’m alive. There’s hope. There’s help. Please, let it play.
4 thoughts on “Let it Play”
Love it. Kinda wished you got 2 pictures though
I love this story!!! It is uplifting…I believe it is important to hear positive messages…..a real story about real people!! Life is difficult but there is always hope!!!!
Looking forward to the next “ now that I am retired!”
Thank you so much Emily! You and Richard have such a special place in my heart!
Thank you for this good word Pastor Mike. You know how often I have dipped into those dark seasons – and am riding one out even now. You taught me to trust God to lead me through it and to look for treasures that would shine in the light when I emerged on the other side. I’m so grateful for your wisdom.