Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tebow Mania

In ancient Rome, unscrupulous potters would fill cracks and chips in their wares with wax to hide the defects.  Cover over the imperfections and they could sell the piece at a higher price.  Pots that should have been shelved in back aisles at Big Lots were transformed into flawless earthenware vessels and displayed (in soft light) at Pottery Barn.  To combat this dishonest marketing, reputable merchants resorted to marking their workmanship with the label "sine cera," Latin for "without wax."  This became the basis of our English word sincere.  

The image is fitting.  Scripture describes us as "jars of clay" (2 Corinthains 4:7).  And these are jars with cracks and chips.  I know my own desire to hide those defects behind a layer of wax.  I want to sell you a better version of myself than is real.  I can fake it pretty well.  I can pull it off, at least in some settings.  It's easier to fool people when the pot is in the store window than when it's in the home.  Fill it with stew and hang it over a fire and all that wax begins to melt.  I can fool the casual acquaintance, but the intimate relations will see through the wax.  They can tell what is true and what is fake.

I am not a sports analyst.  Not by a long shot.  I am in the scandalous 1% - the tiny fraction American males who have no interest in the NFL.  I usually wait until the Super Bowl to watch my first full game of the season.  But I am a cultural observer and, as such, it has been hard to escape Tebow mania.  He is polarizing, both for his orthodox faith and his unorthodox football.   I feel inept to comment on his football. But allow me the liberty to comment, just briefly, on his faith.

By all accounts of those who know him best, his faith is sincere.  His display of devotion to God is without wax, a true expression of his genuine love for the Lord.  In victory and defeat he gives praise to his Lord and Savior.  This is not something he turns on in public.  He is the same on the field and off the field.   Urban Meyer, his coach at the University of Florida, said of Tebow, "Everything you see is true."

So when he bows his knee, or points skyward, or gives praise to God in his post game interviews, it is not a performance. With most athletes, expressions of faith often feel waxy.  But in Tebow's case, this is clay we are seeing.  This is the real Tebow, not a glossy coating he hides behind.  It comes across as sincere.

Ironically, what is pure clay for Tebow has been loaded with wax by the media and hijacked by pop culture.  The idea of Tebowing has been reduced to a move that is symbolic of Tebow, the football player, not reflective of Christianity, the faith.   It is a flimsy pointer to matters more substantial.  Headlines and sounds bites use religious language in a flippant manner.  It's all very gimmicky.

But this isn't Tebow's doing.  He is just allowing his faith to infiltrate his life.  If it weren't on the football field it would be in the board room, or on the sales floor, or in the shop, or whatever work environment he were in.  This is Tebow, pure clay.  To act otherwise would be to coat himself with wax.   

So don't get hung up on the wax that the media traffics in.  Instead, look for clay.  Sincere faith expressed by a man who loves God more than football. And allow that to serve as a motivation to live your life with the same sincerity.


  1. Well put, Phil. His passion is pure and real and relentless and unapologetic - I also like the etymology lesson.

  2. Another wonderful post, Phil. I don't know Tim personally, but I know his dad and have enjoyed breaking bread with him on a couple of occasions. In fact, Win and I had breakfast with him and a couple of other dear friends just a few months ago. The Lord is using Tim's father, Bob Tebow [] in a phenomenal way. He and his staff of some sixty national evangelists have preached the Good News of God's grace to millions [more than fifteen] of Filipinos during the last decade, with more than ten million believing in Jesus for everlasting life. And, Tim ... well, he is the real deal - sincerus [L]. God bless you, Phil. Keep on keeping on - and writing, too!