March 15, 2016

I'll always remember March 15, 2016.


The day had been circled on my calendar for a year.  I had in my head that March 15 would be the day that IWU would be playing for the NAIA National Championship.  March 15 would provide the fitting ending to the countless hours of hard work in the weight room and the early morning wake up calls for the 'junkyard workouts' that Coach Whaley has become famous for.   March 15 would be the payoff for a coaching staff that put so many hours into preparation for each opponent to provide the players the best opportunity to succeed.  Yes, March 15th would be a special day.  


In my mind, March 15 would best be remembered watching the team, and in particular my son Jonny, cutting down the nets at approximately 8 PM.  


Well…isn't it just like our great and awesome God to give us the desires of our heart but in the process provide us with something even more rewarding?  You see, March 15th became a day I will always remember not because of cutting down the nets at 8 PM, but what happened hours before the tip of the championship game.  Let me explain.


The coaches did something in the morning that showed what the focus the IWU program is all about.  They invited all the dads, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, fathers of the players' girlfriends and every other man associated with the team to sit in on the team’s devotion and game plan discussion.  On the most important day of the season.  On a day when most coaching staff would be focused only on last minute adjustments to their game plan.  


The meeting began with a few thoughts from Coach T tying in the pre-season Father-Son retreat and how the theme of "digging ditches in anticipation of God's promises of bringing overabundance of rain" (2 Kings 3: 16-20) had played out over the course of the season.  


Coach Clark then told of Josh Mawhorr singing the praise song 'Unstoppable God' on the bench at the top of his lungs during the final minute of a 1 point game the night before.  Who does that??  A young man that is willing to follow biblical instruction to "sing God's praises in all circumstances."  A young man that has been in a program that instills the importance of keeping God in the forefront of your mind in all things.  


My son Jonny then took the floor.  I found out later the coaches had told the players the night before that if anyone had anything they wanted to share the next morning, the opportunity would be there.   Jonny shared openly and authentically about his prayers for the year and the things he was currently asking his teammates to pray with him about.  I was overwhelmed with pride in the young man my son has become, and yet humbled at seeing things in him that I want more of in my own life.  


Jonny then asked us to split into small groups to pray together.  A room full of 50+ men, huddled together in groups giving thanks to our Heavenly Father for the 'overabundance of blessings' he has rained down upon these young men.  I write these words with tears in my eyes as I think back on this moment.  What an awesome time!  


March 15 will go down in the record books as the day that Indiana Wesleyan Men's Basketball team won the NAIA National Championship.  The dreams that I had of the team, and my son, cutting down the nets became reality.  The celebration and ceremony that followed the game exceeded even my vision of what it would be like.  It was 15 awesome young men and their godly coaching staff celebrating all of their hard work.  It was my son ending his college career on top.


But what I will remember most about March 15 is the opportunity to listen to my son that morning talk without concerned about the biggest game of the year, but being totally focused on his Heavently Father.  I will remember hearing Jonny giving praise and thanksgiving for everything He provides, asking for guidance to live a pure life, and praying for a humble spirit in everything he does.


I'll always remember March 15, the day I got to pray with my son on the morning of the national championship game.

-Tony Marlin