Monday, March 13, 2006

the value of pain

Tony Dungy on the Value of Pain

Tony Dungy is the head coach of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. Many were expecting his team to be competing in Super Bowl XL, but it wasn't to be. He did, however, speak at the Athletes in Action breakfast on Saturday before the game.

After receiving a lengthy standing ovation and paying tribute to Curtis Martin for winning the Athletes in Action Bart Starr Award, Dungy told the hundreds of attendees that he wanted to talk about lessons he had learned from his three sons. Reporters say the room fell silent except for the coach's voice.

He spoke first of his middle son, Eric, and his competitive nature that is so focused on athletics that "it's almost a problem." Then he turned to his youngest son, Jordan, whose rare congenital condition makes him insensitive to pain.

"That sounds like it's good at the beginning, but I promise you it's not," said Coach Dungy. "We've learned some hurts are really necessary for kids. Pain is necessary for kids to find out the difference between what's good and what's harmful." He explained in terms of Jordan's love for his mother's cookies.

"Cookies are good," the coach continued, "but – in Jordan's mind – if they're good out on the plate, they're even better in the oven. He will go right in the oven when my wife's not looking, reach in, take the rack out, take the pan out, burn his hands – then eat the cookies and burn his tongue and never feel it."

With no fear borne of pain, Jordan must be watched constantly. And the lesson from that, Dungy said, is pretty simple. "You get the question all the time, ‘Why does the Lord allow pain in your life? Why do bad things happen to good people? If there is a God of love, why does he allow these hurtful things to happen?' We've learned that a lot of times because of that pain, that little temporary pain, you learn what's harmful. You learn to fear the right things.

"Pain sometimes lets us know we have a condition that needs to be healed. Pain inside sometimes lets us know that spiritually we're not quite right, and we need to be healed. And that God will send that healing agent right to the spot. Sometimes pain is the only way that will turn us as kids back to the Father."

Only then did Coach Dungy speak of his oldest son, James, who took his life three days before Christmas. Of his family's pain. Of lessons they learned.

Coach Dungy reminds us all that the only way to overcome heartache and death, discouragement and anguish is to let them turn us back to the Father. When that happens, we have discovered the ultimate value our pain can have.

Reprinted from Rubel Shelly's FAX of Life.