They say football is a game of inches, and I do agree with that. It’s the small things that matter. I want to expand upon that and tell you that life is the same way. It comes down to moments.
The year was 1983 and I was a football coach for our high school in Hollister, California. We were playing for the league championship and this game was a close one. We had played our opponent earlier in the year and had lost a close game to them, and now in this conference championship we were in the midst of a brutal back-and-forth battle, holding on to a 20-14 lead as the game was deep into the fourth quarter.
Although we were in the lead, in their last possessions they had made some shockingly quick passing strikes for touchdowns and we knew they could do it again. We had the ball and we were stalled on a fourth down near mid-field. The enemy had called a time-out and readied their offense to come in and take over. There were fifteen seconds to go when our quarterback Kevin Townsend came over to the sideline to confer with me. The opponent had figured out our passing game and had shut it down. They had been clogging the lanes and stuffing our run. We had no more time outs and we had nine yards to go on fourth down. Our defense was dragging and was unable to stop a fourth quarter onslaught of 14 quick points. Their offense had a rhythm and couldn’t wait to get back on the field. We knew that they could get the ball and score if we handed it back to them.
Kevin was quick but I didn’t think he could make it through defensive line for the nine yards. Their defense was getting too close to interceptions so a pass was out. He took a deep breath. “What’s the call?”
And I took a risk and made a call I have never done before.
“Get the ball and run,” I said. He nodded, but I grabbed his shoulder. “Backwards,” I said. His eyebrows raised. “And sideways and in circles and in any way you can,” I said, “to get away from them. Burn the clock. Run, Kevin. Run.”
And on that day in 1983 the Calvary Eagles ran one of the most insane plays in the history of high school football. While my offensive line blocked in every way possible, Kevin ran, dodged, snuck, jumped and scooted across the field’s north, south, east and west behind that line of scrimmage for fifteen seconds.
While the crowd was screaming, opposing players leaped, snatched and flailed at him but they couldn’t grab him.
And we won the league championship.
You see, it wasn’t the inch that mattered to me. It was the time - the moment.
And that’s why I’m writing you.
I want to take a Koine Greek word and give it to you as a gift. It’s the word atomos. Burn it in your mind. Tattoo it in your memory.
It means moment. Atomos.
You’ve had some stellar moments this year, haven’t you? You’ve had quite a number of victories: Scholarships. College acceptance. Awards. And yes, sports victories.
Do you remember the moments, standing on the sideline and savoring a sports win? Remember those minutes of looking across that green grass and glancing at the stadium lights and the people in the stands and turning to one another and just grinning. Those moments were special. They still are.
Cherish those moments when you roared and cheered and especially when Mom and Dad came over and embraced you, sweaty uniform and all, and posed for pictures.
Never take those moments for granted.
You see, I never had a dad come to any of my football games or my wrestling matches. Or my baseball games. Or my graduation.
And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one in the school that has had this kind of loss.
But these past years have made up for it, in being able to teach you and watch you excel. I cannot begin to tell you how hard it will be for me to see you leave. I have definitely grown to love you..
Look, I don’t have a shelf full of trophies. I’ve never won an award in sports. I don’t have a wall of certificates and plaques for my profession. I’ve never won an award in teaching.
However, I have a whole soul full of great moments. Like the day I became a Christian. Like the birth moment of my children. Like the first time as a teacher when the class understood a Bible truth.
Great moments are trophies, and I realize that you’ve lined a whole memory shelf of great moments, senior. That's what you've earned – and that’s what you are awarded.
And now I want to give you a charge:
Go make more great moments. Stack them up. Fill up that bookshelf of special moments.
You were born to be great. God meant to for you to be here at GCA and prepare your “life bookshelf”. This is your time to start loading those shelves, and building your future.
Go take a college class about something totally out of your comfort zone.
Buy your little brother or sister a gift for no reason.
Go write your folks a note and let them know of the sacrifices they made and how much you love them.
Invite that lonely student over to your side of the dining hall to meet your friends and eat with you.
Get a job and impress the boss so much that he has to give you a raise. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a fast food joint or a corporate level job – make your impression so strong that everyone in the place notices your ability.
Mow the lawn for the sick old lady down the street.
Get up in front of your church and tell them what God means to you.
Lead your youth group’s next retreat.
I'm sick and tired of hearing success being spelled out by social media attention. Even cults can get thousands of likes and comments. Nobody ever made history by Facebook comments, Instagram selfies or Snapchat affiliation. People like that are addicted to selling out their moments in an artificial world of protection and sterilized living.
Have none of that. God made you to run and laugh and fall and get back up again. While on this earth you will sweat and bleed and even break at times; it’s part of life. You can’t run from it – it’s not in your DNA. God made you to adventure and risk life. He made you with a gut-wrenching burden to help others and love your family. He lets you have moments of failure and laugh about it. He lets you have moments of victory and rejoice in it.
Atomos is a word that means the smallest amount of time that cannot be divided any more.
And dear senior, life beyond the school campus is a collection of fascinating moments that nobody will ever be able to divide or separate from you. In the book of Ecclesiastes the writer states
There is a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
And trust me, good friend, you will do all of these. God wound the clock for you, and now it is up to you to make the best of every minute.
I love you. God bless you and thank you for letting me teach you.
Dr. Brad Zockoll
GCA Bible Instructor