This Sunday, millions of people will tune in to watch the Super Bowl. As a Bills fan, I can’t watch the big game without thinking about January 27th, 1991. It was a long time ago but the memory is seared into my mind like the lines on a perfectly grilled steak.
In their first Super Bowl appearance, the Bills were part of a gridiron battle for the ages. Despite being behind, Jim Kelly and the Bills offense orchestrated a last minute drive to put the Bills within field goal range. With only a few seconds left in the game, it all came down to a field goal. A successful kick would give the Bills their first championship, while a miss would mean victory for their opponents, the New York Giants .
The eyes of the world were on Scott Norwood as he walked onto the field. His reliable leg had kicked countless pigskins through bright yellow bars like the ones in front of him. Yet, he had to know that all those other successful kicks would be a distant memory compared to his current task. THIS moment would be remembered for years to come.
It was no chip shot. 47 yards is definitely a makeable distance for an NFL kicker but also within the range of kicks that are missed on a fairly regular basis. After what seemed like an eternity, the ball was finally snapped. The kick traveled up into the air. It had more than enough distance but sailed past the right upright… No good!
The Giants won the game. The words “Wide Right” still haunt every Bills fan to this day. I imagine those words also follow Scott Norwood around wherever he goes.
Perhaps nothing tests our sense of identity and worth more than failure.
Seeing ourselves through the lens of our accomplishments is as common in our society as breathing air. In many ways, the most important document we own is our resume. It validates all of the gifts, talents and strengths we bring to the table. A resume isn’t inherently a bad thing but a “resume centered life” is marked by continual striving, discontent and constant comparison. Failure is always lurking at the door waiting to destroy everything you have worked so hard to build.
Even though I’ve never attempted a Super Bowl winning kick, I can still identify with Scott Norwood. I’ve failed a lot in life. I have to make a constant decision not to let the “Wide Right” moments of life define me.
Instead, I want to see myself the way that God sees me. My true worth isn’t rooted in what I do. I am loved and accepted for who I am.
Drew Huyn, a pastor from NYC, talks about seven implications of Jesus sacrifice for us. He puts it this way…
We are fully loved.
We are fully accepted.
We have nothing to prove.
We have nothing to lose.
We have nothing to hide.
We are free to make mistakes.
We have nothing to fear.
I doubt I’ll ever like failure but I want to live with the freedom that comes from realizing my worth isn’t wrapped up in my “wide right” moments.
If you’d like to hear more of my thoughts about this topic, feel free to watch a talk I gave at Browncroft Community Church a couple of years ago. You can find the link here.