My beard has been growing since Oct 19. I have very fond memories of that weekend: the beginnings of fall foliage, the cool air in the foothills of upstate South Carolina, and, especially, college football.
Florida State’s reputation as perhaps the dominant team of the season took off that weekend with an impressive 51-14 win over the then-No. 3-ranked Clemson Tigers. For the sake of the many Clemson fans whom I love, I won’t recount the details. For Seminoles like myself, though, it was a glorious weekend for the Garnet and the Gold.
On the road trip to Clemson with students from the Reformed University Fellowship group at FSU, where I serve as the campus minister, I had simply neglected to bring along my razor. It was nothing more. Then cooler weather and “No Shave November” were approaching, so it continued to grow.
In each of the following weekends, the Seminoles continued to dominate the competition, the offense scoring on average more than 50 points per game, while the Seminole defense held their opponents to an average of less than 10 points a contest. Everything seemed to come together around our talented, charismatic, and now Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston.
I am often confused by God’s providence. After all, His ways are higher than our ways. We never know quite what the Lord is going to do, and we rarely understand why exactly He does so—even when it comes to football. God’s providence remains a mystery. But when the other top teams stumbled and FSU claimed the No. 1 ranking, all felt right with the world (to Seminole fans anyway).
We tend to fill the mystery of God’s providence with our own explanations. Years ago, cheering on the ’Noles in a tight game, I noticed a correlation. Every time I shouted a specific cheer, the Seminoles struggled. As an unwavering Calvinist, or even just as an educated person, I knew it was ridiculous to think my individual yelling could affect the outcome of a particular play, but that didn’t mean I continued that cheer. Likewise, the present state of my unruly facial hair has nothing to do with the Seminoles’ success—but that doesn’t mean I’m shaving it.
The explanations continue despite the mystery. Is Auburn the “team of destiny”? Will SEC hubris bring its downfall? The “best” team doesn’t always win, otherwise I could watch tonight’s BCS championship game with ease (we are favored by nine points), nor does the most moral or godly team come out on top, even though both coaches are professing Christians. We can’t know what God’s providence will bring, and that’s half of the fun.
This much we do know: One team will lose; its fans devastated. Another team will be crowned the victor; its fans sent soaring. We identify with our teams, their failures and successes, but we should remember that our greater identity is with Christ. There the mystery has been revealed. He has won the victory, so we are soaring with salvation.
As for tonight’s game, I’m not expecting a close shave.
Editor’s note: The Florida State Seminoles take on the Auburn Tigers tonight in the BCS championship game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. For a perspective on Auburn, see “Auburn and the gift of grace.”