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What We Learn from Derek Carr's Offer to Johnny Manziel

What We Learn from Derek Carr's Offer to Johnny Manziel

In a recent interview with Peter King, Derek Carr revealed his willingness to help fellow 2014 NFL Draft Class quarterback Johnny Manziel.

“What’s crazy is, you know, I spent a lot of time around him. He’s such a good dude. I obviously wish him the best, you know I hope that … hopefully one day he’ll reach out, [I’d] be able to talk to him and be a friend to him.”

When King asked if Carr wanted a chance to help Manziel—who was drafted 14 spots ahead of Carr—he responded,

“Absolutely, man. Because he’s so talented, so I understand why he was drafted where he was. He could throw, could run, a dynamic athlete, dynamic player. Obviously he just had a little trouble. He’s still young though, so hopefully he'll get another chance someday and he'll be alright.”

When Manziel heard that Carr had expressed a desire to connect, he Tweeted a willingness to take him up on the offer. Wonderful moment.

But what does it mean? Perhaps nothing, and let’s not draw any conclusions about Carr or Manziel here.

Instead, let’s allow their brief moment to remind us of something about God’s desires for us, as their interaction brought to mind two questions—one from Jesus, one from a preacher—whose answers have far reaching effects in the way we interact with life each day:

“Do you really want to get well?” and “Is ‘the last time’ keeping you from doing what God wants this time?”

“Do you want to get well?”

Manziel’s openness to meeting with someone offering help recalls an interaction Jesus had with a man sitting by a pool surrounded by sick and hurting people. This unnamed man, lame in his legs for the last 38 years, was now constantly dependent on help from his friends (John 5).

Jesus approached this man who obviously needed miraculous intervention and initiated as He often did—by asking him a question that made no sense in the ears of those who first heard it.

“Do you want to get well?”

Jesus made a habit of asking people if they were ready for their situation to change, quizzing individuals whose circumstantial condition would seem to make the question redundant.

His question hangs over us centuries later with the same implications: Just because you’ve been unhealthy for a long time doesn’t mean you’re actually ready to be well.

The question makes complete sense upon reflection. Because getting “well” comes with a cost.

It means taking responsibility instead of blaming.

It means embracing the discomfort of a new identity.

It means letting go of comfortable habits that result in dis-ease.

It means allowing yourself to begin a new narrative for your life.

It means the pain of slaying inner demons that portray themselves as friends.

It means living in grace instead of law.

Jesus already understood what we tend to ignore—that the comfortable surroundings of unhealthiness encourage us to avoid the costly disorientation created by wellness. When we reject getting well, we’re saying, “Better to stay comfortably miserable in a world I understand than to be reborn into something new.”

The demons that keep us unwell are familiar and shared in varying degrees by all humans: default sin behaviors, family history, addictions, relational disconnection, the past, cultural patterns, demonic self-talk that stays on a repeating loop in our minds.

The most difficult part of getting well has little to do with our own effort or actual desire to become well. Getting well on the inside always involves a resolve of conscious, yes, but more importantly it demands a genuinely broken surrender to Jesus and an invitation to allow Him access to the darkness inside.

How easy is it to say, “I want to get well and this time I’m going to do it!” only to realize that we can’t fix the deepest matters of our soul alone?

But since the resurrection there’s good news: Jesus can invade the areas of our soul that need set free, and He can do what counselors, family, friends, and other resources cannot—He can make all things new.

He will confront the evils that take up comfortable residence in the dark corners of our lives, but He’ll only do so if we let Him.

Manziel and the rest of us can only get truly well when Jesus has opportunity to fill our hearts with grace and love and the good things that nurture our souls and heal our past. He asks us, “Do you want to get well?” and then offers Himself as the cure.

“Is ‘the last time’ keeping you from His will this time?”

Carr’s “outreach” regarding a fellow quarterback and peer reminded me of a sermon I heard recently. In one point of the message, the pastor exhorted his listeners not to let what happened “the last time” dictate what we do in this present moment.

That just because something has been tried, just because a conversation didn’t go in the desired direction, just because an effort failed in the first attempt—don’t let those endings prematurely decide what should happen right now.

Past experience is a great teacher, but if God should have His way today, what happened before cannot be allowed the status of an idol in our lives. If we are walking with God and allowing His Spirit to have His way, He may very well be calling for us to try again.

Maybe this time God wants to do something different.

But you’ll never know if you’ve already decided that He doesn’t.

Regardless of his motive or whether he really meant it or just felt pressure to say “the right thing,” when Derek Carr said he would meet with Johnny Manziel, some must have thought to themselves that engaging him won’t be a good use of his time.

We can even imagine folks who have suffered alongside Manziel rolling their eyes at Carr’s openness: “Good luck with that, dude. We’ve tried. It won’t go well. And you’ll get messed up trying.”

Speaking out of their own experience, there’s really no reason to judge their imagined dismissal. Sign up to intersect a spiraling life and you run the risk of being injured and scarred yourself.

But perhaps God wants to do something new in someone’s life right now—even if He wasn’t ready to do so previously. Even if the person’s hardness of heart kept them from grace before.

The question becomes, “Am I listening for God’s leading in this moment or am I being led solely by my and other’s past experience?”

Because for those who want to get well, God is always in the business of making all things new, of bringing about transforming reversals of fortune for the broken hearted and making something out of nothing. But He seems to almost always work through other people to bring about the change.

I know what happened last time—but are you available for Him to use you as He pleases right now?