Second quarter. Down 13-0. Auburn had not won a football game in Baton Rouge since before Y2K. Fourth down and two. They go for it. Bo Nix takes the snap under center. Drops back, nothing. Runs to his right, nothing. Runs to his left, nearly tackled. Backs up to avoid pressure, nearly brought down again. Moves forward a few yards. As he is being sacked for a loss, Nix heaves a pass into the air. The ball lands beautifully into the waiting hands of his tight end who is in the end zone. Touchdown Auburn. Houdini Bo pulled a rabbit out of his hat. Over the next two and half quarters, Bo Nix continued his magical ways. The cajun curse was over. Auburn, on the shoulders of their stud quarterback, finally beat LSU at their house. “We want Bo.”
Oh, what a difference a week makes.
Seven days earlier, Nix was pouting on the sideline because he was benched. For the first time in his life. During a homecoming game. At the request of demanding and heartless fans. “We want TJ!” they cried. TJ Finley entered the game, brought Auburn back from behind, and was the homecoming hero. I wrote about that identity crisis here.
It’s one thing when you are benched. It’s another when ESPN puts a microphone and camera in front of your face after the game. In a matter of hours, minutes even, Bo Nix went from being a Zero to a Hero. Seven days earlier, nearly to the hour, Bo Nix heard fans longing for his replacement to play. A lifelong Auburn man was benched for his poor performance. Experiences like that will severely disrupt your identity. But so will success. Success may be more difficult, actually. Being the guy interviewed for his heroic performance is incredibly rewarding. But it is also remarkably dangerous.
Man is tested by the praise he receives (Proverbs 27:21).
Bless Bo. Now he has a new challenge: will he remember who he is as a beloved child of God? Or will he put all his identity chips back in the “everyone’s favorite QB1 for Auburn” basket? Will he remember how fickle fans are? Will he reflect on how the majority of Auburn nation doesn’t love him, but loves him for helping them have bragging rights? Will he get his sense of security from his performance? Or will he remember that he is, every part of him, loved by God for simply being Bo?
Sigh. Does it ever end? Will the cycle ever stop?
For all I know, Bo Nix is handling this emotional roller coaster and identity pendulum better than anyone. Though I feel like I know him, I don’t. Never met him. Perhaps the reason these turn of events is so captivating (to me, anyway) is because it feels like what we humans constantly endure. We get a hurtful comment from our employer and we wonder who we are and what we are doing with our life. We get a significant raise due to our performance and we immediately believe we are God’s gift to our industry. No one laughs at my horrific attempt at humor in the 9 am service and I am ready to go flip hamburgers at Hardees for a living. People fall out of their pews laughing at the 10:30 am service and I am ready to do a stand up comedy tour. It’s remarkable. Our spouse says something painful and we wonder why in the world we got married. Our spouse says something complimentary and we feel we could write the next bestselling book on marriage. So many emotions. So many feelings. So many pendulum swings. Rising and falling all due to performance. Crashing and climbing all based on others thoughts of us. Hero and zero status (and vice-versa) due to my work, my action, my perceived success. My worth constantly based on what I do or don’t do. What I do or don’t say.
Here’s a question for Bo: what would have happened if the tight end dropped the pass? Or worse: what would have happened if an LSU player picked it off in the end zone and went 100 yards the other way for a score? Both could have easily happened. It would have changed everything. TJ Finley would have probably gone into the game and Auburn fans would be bemoaning another mediocre year and another loss in Baton Rouge. Think about that. Bo’s hero status really depended on a a tight end being able to catch the ball. Sigh.
I don’t know about you, but I get exhausted “finding myself” and/or discovering my identity based on things that are outside of my control and dependent on others’ actions or reactions. It’s all so fickle. So haphazard. So ridiculous. So like the morning fog that is there, then goes away. If I had a chance to visit with Bo Nix, I hope I would challenge him to be careful. But this really isn’t about Bo. It’s about me. It’s about you. It’s about us being reminded that, really and truly, our worth and identity are secure. Constant. Unchanging. Rock-solid. Ever-lasting. We are loved. We are loved by God. We are loved for who we are. We are loved for the best part of ourselves. We are loved for the worst part of ourselves. We are loved when we feel loved and when we don’t. We are loved and adored when the crowd cheers and when the crowd boos. We are loved when the catch is made. We are loved when it’s dropped. As God’s children, our performance does not drive God’s love for us. God performs for us to demonstrate His love. Love isn’t earned by us based on our work. Love is revealed by God out of His work on our behalf.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith . . . not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) None of us can boast, because it is God’s work who does it for us. But none of us can lament our lack, either. We aren’t loved because of our work or failure of performance. God does the work because He, indeed, loves.