Stevie Johnson dropped the ball — literally.
Johnson is the Buffalo Bills wide receiver who vented his anger at God on the social network Twitter after he dropped a game-winning pass last month.
Johnson’s tweet read, “I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO. . .”
Johnson has taken a lot of heat from fellow believers for his audacious tweet. But I invite you to hear a kind of a prayer in his tweet.
His prayer is in the best tradition of Job.
You remember Job. He’s the guy who lost his entire family and then had the audacity to warn God: “I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” Job 7:11
And like Johnson, Job too asked, “Why not give us a break? Ease up! Even ditch diggers get occasional days off.”
If we were honest, most of us would admit to having uttered a similar prayer. Such as, “Give me a break, God. What are you thinking?” Didn’t I ask you to heal my daughter? Or didn’t I ask you to give me a better job?”
And believe it or not, these prayers work. Perhaps not the way we’d like, but they are heard by God.
Working as a hospital chaplain, I heard a similar prayer of rage from a minister and his wife after the death of their premature twins. The couple expressed to me in several ways how much they’d given their lives in service to God and now God had shortchanged them. They swore to me they’d never return to church again.
In all of my visits with them, I never hinted that their anger might incur a lightening strike from God. I knew God heard their hurts in the same way he heard those of Job.
The cries of agony, loss or pain are expressed in many different ways. They are expressed in a wordless whimper, and God hears them. They are expressed in bloodcurdling screams, and God hears them. These days they are even expressed in tweets.
Many of these expressions may offend the offhand reader. But, no?matter how they are said, Psalm 142:1-2 promises that God hears them: “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.”
In some ways, God is like us. He can take criticism. He just doesn’t like us talking about him behind his back. If you have complaints about God, take it to him face to face. Tell him up front what you think. He can take it. He’s the creator.
In the end, keeping the conversation going with God is the most important thing, because as long as we talk to God, our reconciliation with God and our understanding of God will never be far behind.
Finally, as long as we’re talking sports today, I think that perhaps Mike Sweeney, a devout Roman Catholic who plays baseball for the Washington Mariners, said it best when quoted by CNN: “It’s easy being a Christian when you’re hitting .345, but you let me know who you really are when you’re hitting .245 and going through the valley.”
Burkes is a former civilian hospital chaplain and an Air National Guard chaplain. Write firstname.lastname@example.org or visit thechaplain.net. You also can follow him on Twitter, username is “chaplain,” or on Facebook at facebook.com/norrisburkes.