Monday, March 25, 2013

Tenacious Spirituality

This Ivy League Rookie of the year is intense –not just about wrestling, and academics but about Jesus.   Nahshon Garrett has been making news all season long -including this past weekend at the NCAA finals, but I want to talk about his faith.  If you run into Nahshon on campus, you will be blessed, you’ll probably have some sort of spiritual conversation, and you’ll typically end up praying together! 

I’ll be honest; I’ve seen countless athletes living luke-warm lives,  sort of ‘naming the name’ and only talking about being a Christian when they come to church on Sundays.  So I wasn’t too sure when I met Nahshon this past fall if his passion was gonna last.   He had recently given his life to Jesus, and although I was certainly hopeful that he would remain gung-ho,  I wouldn’t have been too surprised if he faded out once the season got going.  

But by God’s grace he’s even more pumped up right now!  It has been unbelievably encouraging to me and to everyone in our ministry to see the ways that God is working in and thru Nahshon!  This guy is berserk!  So many Cornellians (and others!) can be  driven, diligent and intentional in almost every area of their lives except their spiritual lives –but not so with Nahshon.   His faith is authentic and his zeal is contagious.   This guy is sold out thru and thru; there isn’t that disconnect that you see so often.   

Cornell’s wrestling program is absolutely top notch.  Hometown sensation and Cornell senior Kyle Dake just won his 4th NCAA championship –each of them in a different weight class –without even taking a redshirt year.  What he’s accomplished is unprecedented in every way! 

Like Dake, Nahshon is triumphant on the mat. But like Epaphras in Colossians 4:12, he is also one who wrestles in prayer.  He cleaned out a small basement boiler room to make a quiet time space for himself in “The Wrestling House” –the home he shares with over 30 of the guys.  Every day he’s spending time down there reading his Bible and praying for his team mates and friends.  

Nahshon is constantly talking about the Bible and repenting of pride, dying to self and yielding our lives to the Holy Spirit.  Only then can we experience God fully and be used by him powerfully.  He’s always on the lookout for an opportunity to share the good news of Christ, encourage others and speak blessing into people’s lives.  

Nahshon at the Cru Fall Retreat
More than once, I’ve been talking to a student in our ministry and when I mention Nahshon, they immediately recount to me some incredible and unusual story.   The other day the Cornell baseball team was practicing indoors because of the weather.  While running laps, a junior player named Zach who’s involved in Cru saw Nahshon walk into the gym.  (Zach is also a passionate Christ follower on campus) They waved at each other.  When Zach came around again, it appeared Nahshon was kind of gesturing for him to come over.  Even though, they were practicing, Zach jogged over to see what was up.  Nahshon greeted him and said –“hey man, you want to pray together real quick?”  Not sure exactly how the coaches would feel about him skipping a couple of laps, Zach somewhat uncertainly said “Yeah, let’s do it!”  And so the two of them proceeded to pray for each other right there in the gym. 

Right when they were done, Zach got back to jogging, and he told me he was thinking:  “What just happened?.....That was awesome!!!”  His spirit was tremendously encouraged and his mind was focused on the Lord! 

Nahshon has a real way of doing that for people! 

A couple of weeks ago he was talking to a guy on campus.  Friendly and engaging as always, he was just getting to know him a bit.  The guys wife came along to meet him for lunch and so they said “goodbye, nice to meet you” etc.   But, the Holy Spirit had more in mind, and Nahshon was struck with a burden to pray for the guy.  So, while the couple walks away, he jogs back over to them and asks him if he can pray over them.  They guy’s wife is kind of thinking “uh….did I miss something?”   But they bow their heads together and Nahshon just prays for their lives in Jesus’ name.   Such a blessing! 

When they finish, they part ways, and as Nahshon is walking away, he sees a couple of Asian students –who he has never met before-sitting there praying together at a table.  Fired up and always ready to pray, Nahshon walks right over to them, puts his arm around one of the guys and joins them in prayer right there.  One of the guy’s kind of opens his eyes and is no doubt thinking “uh…did I miss something here?”  They wrap up their prayer time and afterwards they spent some time talking about life and the Lord on campus.  I can pretty much guarantee as Nahshon walked away the guys were encouraged and even more focused on the Lord. 

I have other stories, that I don’t want to write because they involve many different people.  But, I just love Nahshon’s tenacious spirituality.  God has already and is now redeeming him from a life spent striving after satisfaction in alcohol, promiscuity or even fame and success.   Nahshon’s compassion for those separated from Jesus compels him to engage others lovingly.  He’s always trying to find ways to help others know the incomparable love of our savior.  

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