Randy Johnson and the Heart

Randy Johnson, not the MLB pitcher, the one from Oklahoma State in 1966, was the quarterback for a mediocre team during a mediocre season. In their final game against in-state rival Oklahoma they were losing 13-7 with twenty-eight seconds remaining in the game and eighty yards to go for a score. The coach told Randy to call whatever play he wanted for the final play of the game. Randy called play 13. Play 13 had never been used in a game, for good reason, it had never worked in practice. This time, however, it worked. Oklahoma State defeated Oklahoma on the final play of the game in 1966, using play 13. Players carried Randy off the field like a hero.

Following the game the coach asked Randy why he called play 13. Randy said that in the huddle he saw number 8, a senior, with tears in his eyes, playing in his final game. Then he looked at number 7, also a senior with tears running down his face. Randy said, “Coach, when I saw those guys my heart went out to them, so I added up their numbers and called play 13.” The coach responded, “Randy, 8 and 7 don’t add up to 13.” Randy thought about it for a moment then said, “You’re right, and if I’d been as smart as you we would have lost the game!”

Sometimes the right answer is not the right answer. Sometimes what adds up won’t work. Sometimes what will work is not the right answer. How do we come to terms with these things when we are dealing with matters far more serious than a football game?

Lest you think I’m leaving the Bible behind and forgetting about the truth, I pose this, what do we do with Jacob? Was he right to steal his older brother’s birthright? Was his mother right to conspire with Jacob against his father? What about Jacob changing his appearance and lying to his father? Jacob was wrong at each point. Yet, years down the broken road Jacob met Rachel, a woman he loved with such intensity that seven years of labor seemed like nothing, a woman who became mother of Joseph, the same Joseph who later saved the whole family. There is more to the story, of course, but this is enough to see that the right answers for Jacob along the way would not have led him to Rachel.

It’s fuzzy. It doesn’t add up. There are flaws in logic and morality. Even so, a thread of grace is woven into the fabric of Jacob’s life, and today we look back at Jacob’s story and see the good over the bad.

A wise man once told me he wanted his head to always be bigger than his heart. He believed his heart would lead him astray. Such thoughts seem to me to be another attempt at hiding the heart. Sure, the heart may be deceptive, but the heart is also perceptive. Some things are blurry to the mind but crystal clear to the heart. Was it the head or the heart that took Jesus through Gethsemane? Was it the head or the heart that put Isaac on the altar before Abraham? Was it the head or the heart that led Paul back to Jerusalem? I know people who would say head, others who would say heart, and some who would say both. Fuzzy, isn’t it?

The fact remains that we still find ourselves in the huddle, surrounded by our team, with all the odds against us. Moments come when we must make a call. Perhaps if we were not so smart we could call our plays more from the heart and less from the head. Maybe, just maybe, then we could pull off a last-second-come-from-behind win.

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