“You know the Bible speaks of a healing place. It's called a threshing floor. The threshing floor is where you take your greatest fear and you pray for help from your great God…. When I am on that threshing floor, I pray….
“My heart cried out, 'God, why must I go through so many peaks and valleys?'...
“At that moment a voice came over me and said, 'Look up, get up, and don't ever give up.' You tell everyone or anyone that has ever doubted, thought they did not measure up or wanted to quit, you tell them to look up, get up and don't ever give up.”—Retired Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin, Professional Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech, August 4, 2007
During his playing days, I was not a fan of the hugely talented but troubled Michael Irvin. On the gridiron, he might have been a threat to score from anywhere or at any point, but off the field he faced a string of drug-related charges that made him seem the epitome of a spoiled-rotten player.
Several years ago, after he had retired from pro football, I read that he was trying to turn his life around. His recovery from substance abuse, it seems, continues. And, in Eli Saslow’s fascinating and moving article in ESPN Magazine, I learned how Irvin had agonized for weeks over his address at Canton five years ago—looking past the safe litany of thank-yous to fully vent his sorrow over so often failing his family.
We might not have come to Irvin’s particular extremity, but all of us, at one point or another, are driven to the “threshing floor” (a phrase, interestingly, that appears not in the King James Version of the Bible, but the New International Version—notably, in 2 Samuel 24, where King David purchases one as a site for the temple). At that point, we can draw strength from the words that reassured Irvin: Look up, get up, and don't ever give up.
Even if it means picking up our own personal crosses again, to be carried for who knows how long.