It’s no secret that football is perhaps my greatest refuge from the cares of this world.
I watch it every weekend from August to February with a boyish fervor. I play the video game version of it late into the night to calm my mind. I talk about it on my Michigan podcast as a way to share my love of the game with others. And I coach my son’s flag football team because, hey, that’s my boy.
But I have never required it as an escape to avoid the pain of grief. That’s another matter altogether. It’s where Marquise Goodwin found himself last weekend. And yet he clearly meant more by what he did and what he showed in his grief than merely an “escape.”
Early on Sunday morning, just hours before his game as a receiver with the San Francisco 49ers, Goodwin’s wife went into premature labor, and they lost their baby boy. Their next actions and words were astonishing and heartbreaking.
First, Goodwin showed up to play for a team that had yet to win a game. How do you pull yourself together to do such a thing? Or why? What possible purpose could there be to play at all?
For an answer to that, you would have to ask Morgan Goodwin-Snow, Marquise’s wife. Before the game, without telling the public what had happened, Morgan posted this on social media: “Lord Jesus, give [Marquise] strength as he steps out on that field today. That he may do extraordinary things in today’s game. Amen. It’s GAME DAY. #IGotChuBaby #MyHubby #ThankYouSoMuchBaby #ILoveYou.”
This from a woman who had just lost her child. Yet with death seeking to rob her of all hope, she proved unbreakable and gave glory to the Lord in all things. So how could her husband not raise his head and fight on in the face of such strength? And so he did.
All after a week of constant worry about would happen to his wife and child. After resting his boy’s tiny hand on the top of his index finger and saying his goodbyes — a scene that was captured in a breathtaking photo posted on Instagram. I truly have no words for such resolve, but my respect is endless.
Still, no one watching knew what had happened to the Goodwins. And perhaps very few people ever would have until football gave us what might be its best Hail Mary ever. Goodwin caught an 83-yard pass for a touchdown and did what any man of God should do when grace rains down on him in the most unexpected and inexplicable of ways:
He pointed to the heavens. He fell to his knees in the end zone. And he wept in the consolations of the Lord.
After the game, Marquise publicly recounted the events of the day on social media, saying, “Although we are hurt, I am grateful for the experience and grateful that God blessed me with a wife as courageous and resilient as Morgan. The pain that she has endured is unbelievable. Please pray for the Goodwin family.”
And then his wife ended the day where she started, as a woman of marvelous faith. She again took to social media to offer up her life and her marriage as a gift from God: Her pregnancy was “an amazing experience and it was also a tragic experience. But that’s okay because we won’t stop fighting and we won’t give up on what God has in store for us.”
That’s a message I desperately needed to hear this week. For I am feeling battered and I am broken. But with friends in the Lord like this, who can be against?
There is such marvelous courage and beauty out there, and it would be a crime to seek to escape from such a world because it is hard sometimes. I pray that I can persevere like the Goodwins and that God may be lifted up because of it.
In the end, that is really why all of us are here.