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Trials build strength, Seahawks star Alexander says
Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander's first book, "Touchdown Alexander," will be in bookstores Aug. 15. In it, the NFL's 2005 most valuable player talks about his life, his game and his faith. Here is an excerpt, the final chapter in the book, in which he addresses what drives him spiritually.
ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS
"If I have seen farther than others,
it is because I have stood on the
Taken from "Touchdown Alexander." Copyright © 2006 by Shaun Alexander. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR. Used by permission. www.harvesthousepublishers.com/books_buy.cfm
shoulders of giants."
I understand what Isaac Newton meant when he wrote those words.
It seems as if I've been able to do outstanding things. But that's only because I too have stood on the shoulders of giants. I've been surrounded by excellent people and gained much from them. My success is a result of knowing them.
Someone very wise once said, "Show me your friends, and I'll show you your future." I often quote this to others because I believe it.
Because of the friends and the giants in my life, I've learned two valuable lessons:
1. Trials lead us to great things. Too many people don't want to face the hardships that come with life, but if we want to reach the high levels in any phase of life, we must go through the tough times. I don't like hard times or adversity ... but I admit that every difficulty that has come into my life has made me stronger.
I believe that the heavy stones on our backs can become the stepping stones to get us to the next level. The struggles are preparation to make us what God wants us to become.
2. God really does give us the desires of our hearts. That Bible verse, Psalm, 37:4, is the key point of my life.
I wouldn't want to end this book without saying more about the desires God has put in my heart. These desires drive me. They push me forward. They get me up in the morning, excited to see what God's next blessing will be. I can boil these desires down to two sentences.
First, I want to make an impact for God's kingdom. During my junior year in Alabama, Sam Collins, a teammate of mine, asked me to sign some T-shirts for his cousin. I started to write only my name.
"Why didn't you write your favorite Bible verse?" he asked. "Don't you think if you wrote it on there, everybody would eventually read it?"
I had never thought of that before. Since then, whenever I autograph anything I always add Psalm 37:4.
That same year — on Aug. 30 — I turned 21. It was that day that God gave me a platform to stand on to teach His Word. At Calvary Baptist Church, my church home during college, there's a church service where they invite the entire Alabama football team. It's called "Hello 'Bama" and the church invites former players who are Christians to be the main speakers for that service.
Unlike many young men on their 21st birthdays, who celebrate by partying wild, I was one of the main speakers in that church service. My speaking that day has carried me into a higher calling of proclaiming God's Word.
And in March of 2003, I stepped up into an even higher calling. That month Pastor Casey Treat approached me and said, "Shaun, I feel it's time for you to be ordained."
His words floored me. I didn't know how to respond. I wasn't even quite sure what being "ordained" meant.
Pastor Treat explained that ordination was an acknowledgment of who I am, what I was already doing, and what I would continue to do in the future. We prayed together briefly, and I told him I'd pray more about being ordained.
And I did pray — a lot. At one point, I felt God ask me a tough question: Are you ashamed of being ordained or of being associated with Me?
I wasn't ashamed, and I knew the power of being obedient. I also trusted Casey. He is one of my spiritual mentors. If he felt I was ready to take such a step, I accepted that God was speaking through him and saying it was time for me to take a leap forward.
So on March 13, 2003, I was ordained. That night, Creflo Dollar, pastor of World Changers Church International in Atlanta, preached. He said that people who don't work on their own character can be destroyed by their gifts: "Everybody was created especially for something. ... That is a gift, but if your character isn't strong enough to carry your gift, that gift will destroy you."
I listened intently to every word. His message challenged me to use both trials and victories as springboards to grow as a man, a student, a husband, and a teacher.
Second, I want to develop Timothys — the students of life — from all over the world. That vision came from seeing the impact FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) camps had on some of the high-school kids when I was a huddle leader. Some of those young men have gone forward for God and are being used by Him today. I know I'm not the only person who reached out to them, but I was given the opportunity to help them go in the right direction.
Here are two examples. First, when the film "The Passion of the Christ" came out, several of the Seahawks and I bought out a local theater for three special showings. That morning as I was praying, I felt God say to me, You'll meet a new little brother today, and you're going to mentor him and teach him what to know.
"All right, God," I prayed. "What does this boy look like?"
God didn't answer then, but I knew I'd find the boy.
At the end of the film, a pastor stood up and talked to those present who weren't believers. Several of us stood at the back, available to speak further to anyone who wanted to talk about the movie, God, or anything.
A young man named RaViel came up to me and started telling me about his cousin, Kellen. I was enjoying our conversation — and then it hit me. I knew.
"You're him!" I said.
RaViel probably thought I was crazy, but I knew this was the boy God had sent my way.
In the weeks following, RaViel and I got together regularly to talk about life, God, and the future. I taught him the value of knowing the Bible and making wise decisions in his life.
RaViel is now a sophomore in college. He loves God, and I believe that in the future he will become a great leader in whatever he undertakes.
The second example of a Timothy in my life is a young man named Jordan Shimon. He lives in a small town in Wisconsin. In April 2003, Valerie [Alexander's wife] and I took a cruise from Florida to Cozumel, Mexico. Jordan was also on the ship, on spring break with his dad and little brother.
Val and I were on the deck one night and people were sitting around, talking, singing, and listening to music. We danced for a while. I noticed Jordan sitting and watching the grown-ups. I saw that he was the only teenager on the deck.
Here we are on this big boat, I thought, and food is everywhere. There are all those arcades and dance areas downstairs, and high-school girls are all around. Why is he here watching his dad dance? After a few minutes, I turned to him and asked, "How old are you?"
"Sixteen," he answered.
"Why are you here on the deck and not downstairs with the high-school kids playing video games and dancing and all that?"
"It's not my style," he said.
He was extremely tall, so I asked, "Do you play basketball?"
"Yeah, I play."
Our conversation ended, but I couldn't shake the feeling that there was something about Jordan ... he had something about him I liked. I kept wondering if God wanted me to mentor him. "If I'm supposed to relate to this kid," I prayed, "then I'll see him tomorrow. I'll pull him to the side and talk to him."
The next day, while Val had a massage, I walked to the cafeteria. Just in front of me in line stood Jordan, his brother, and a couple of friends. We grabbed our food, and I invited the boys to eat with me.
They wanted to know about me, so I told them about my life, about who I was, and about a couple of the big games I had played in. As I answered, I had the sense Jordan wanted someone to tell him it was okay to be a man of God in today's world.
We connected that day, and Jordan became the newest Timothy in my life. That relationship still continues. At least once a month, I call him and give him Scriptures to read.
Right now I have about 30 Timothys in my life. I call them my little brothers, my mentees ... and the future.
At the time of this writing, I am 28 years old. Here's the most valuable truth I've learned in life: I am a blessed man.
I have been able to play professional football. I've gotten to know some of the spiritual giants of my generation, I've been able to hang with some of those who have made outstanding achievements, and I've been able to achieve some of the greatest honors — ones I never even thought about gaining.
I am blessed.
... I have to laugh at how good God has been to me. I love that His Word is 100 percent right — He does give the desires of the heart to those who delight themselves in Him. So I end with this: Every night when I'm home, after I pray with my daughters and kiss my wife good night, I pause to thank God for giving me such a blessed life.
And many times, like a coach talking to his players, I've sensed God saying to me, Shaun, this is only your first quarter. ...
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company