Butterflies before Kickoff

Thankfully, this is not about winning and losing.  It is about fully living …”


Article by Malcolm Marler


Today, I’m remembering what it felt like just before kickoff when I played football many years ago for Clemson University …


This post is not ultimately about football … it’s about my life … right now at 54 years old and how I physically feel today.  Let me describe the feeling first…


Just before kickoff, there were always butterflies in my stomach.  Do you know what I mean?  Not a feeling of fear, but rather anticipation, nervousness, and excitement simultaneously.  My heart would beat about 90 times per minute compared to my normal 60.


It was anticipation of a game that I loved to play … I had dreamed of, longed for, and prepared for this moment.  I knew who I was and what my mission was.  The time for thinking had past.  It was time to trust all of the practice, all of the coaching, all of my teammates, and all of my deepest instincts.  It was time to let go and react and respond to each and every moment.  I loved being on the defensive kick-off team.  Because when the whistle blew for the game to begin, and the ball was kicked … I could run like the wind, find the ball carrier, and do my job.


And today, many years later, thankfully I have those butterflies again.  I had almost forgotten what it felt like.


Today I’m feeling the anticipation of the last third of my career.  The ball is teed up, I’m lined up with my teammates, and waiting for the whistle to blow.  I’ve trained all my life for this moment.  No more waiting.  It is time to trust all of the practice, all of the coaching, and all of my teammates once again.  I know who I am and I know my purpose for being on this earth.  What a gift that is!


My life purpose is to create community and connection for the human family when they are going through difficult times.


When people feel like their whole world has fallen apart, that’s where I want to be, where I need to be, where I believe God has put me.  When grief rips a person’s heart wide open, that’s where I want to be.  When someone feels like God or another doesn’t love them or even hates them, that’s where I want to be … not to be there so that I can fix it for them.  My playing experience has taught me that I can’t.  Thankfully, I’ve had others walk alongside me in my life when I have felt like that.  And my purpose is to keep that going as best I can … to be there to walk along side others.


I’ve known this purpose deep within my soul since I was called into ministry over thirty years ago.  I have tried my best to do it and sometimes I’ve not done it so well.  I have lived out this purpose when I was working within the church, and in an AIDS clinic.  There is no difference between the two.  None.  We are all the same.


And so … where will I play the last 1/3 of my vocation?  What role will I play?  What team will I be on?


The honest answer is I don’t know.  What I do know is I am ready to play.  Each and every down.  I cannot do it alone.  Thankfully, I don’t have to.  Thankfully, this is not about winning and losing.  It is about fully living.


So … I take that same deep breath I used to take, and with a wide-open heart I say thank you God for the opportunity to play, and thank you to those of you who have been, and will be my teammates.


This is a faith adventure that flutters like butterflies in my stomach.  Something new and exciting is about to happen.  I can feel it.


The butterflies have told me so.


But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.  He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

-Jeremiah 17: 7-8 (NIV)


Malcolm Marler is the new Director of Pastoral Care for UAB Hospital in Birmingham, AL beginning October 5, 2009.  Previously, Malcolm was the first full-time Chaplain for HIV/AIDS patients in the United States hired by a state university health system in 1994 at the University of Alabama Birmingham.  In addition to his interest in spirituality and health, he loves to identify physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of persons, then design and build programs that help meet those needs.  His warmth and humor along with his powerful message of hope and grace is his greatest strength.  Malcolm grew up in Alabama and attended Clemson University (S.C.) on a football scholarship as a defensive back where he graduated with a B.A. degree in Psychology.  He is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY with Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees.  Malcolm lives on a lake in North Alabama with the love of his life, Mary Bea Sullivan.  He has two open-hearted, loving stepchildren, Brendan and Kiki who are both freshman in college.  For more information or to contact Malcolm, please visit www.MalcolmMarler.com.


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Posted on 29 September, 2009 in Career, Gratitude, Spirituality
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