Last night as I gazed on Broadway from a popular rooftop bar at the sea of yellow below, I thought to myself, “How did I get here?” It wasn’t a literal question, I had not blacked out, I had merely ingested a few alcoholic beverages at that point! The question popped up for a number of reasons I think but the most obvious given the circumstances were hockey related.
I grew up a big sports fan. But I grew up in Alabama where there is little to no professional hockey presence. We had the Birmingham Bulls (minor league) for a little bit and I remember going to a game once or twice. The bottom line was that I never became a hockey fan. All these people that preached the idea that hockey is the most exciting sport to watch had no affect on my opinion. I was a basketball and football guy like everyone else in my sphere of influence.
When I came to Nashville I was shocked to find how many people here are avid, die hard hockey fans. Their team: The Predators – or Preds for short. My brother-in-law took me to a preseason game during my first year and I was hooked.
Consider me enlightened.
Hockey is a beautiful, simple, fast, amazing, gut wrenching, heart pounding sport. Yes it can be brutal. Yes there are fights on the ice which many people frown on and consider barbaric. But my feeling is that hockey is a magical blend of speed, power, skill and grace. I mean think about it, most of us are lucky to skate on ice for an hour without falling down. Can you imagine skating as fast as you can trying to control a tiny circular disk with a large stick, as a giant bearded (possibly toothless) enforcer closes in with every intend to implant you into the wall? I not only respect those athletes, I am in downright awe of them.
Last night I watched a hockey game with some friends. Three close friends and 10,000 others packed into the park right next to the arena. Yes 20,000 packed the arena to watch the home team take on the Anaheim Ducks for game 6 of the Western Conference Finals and another 10,000 gathered outside the arena facing a gigantic screen. If the Preds win they go to the Stanley Cup finals. For the first time. Ever.
It was easily the biggest game in franchise history (one that is nearly 20 years old). It was one of my most memorable Nashville moments so far! After beating the Ducks 6-3 the 10,000 watching outside merged with the 20,000 pouring out of the arena and pandemonium ensued. Some sprinted down the street waving flags. Other high-fived strangers at every turn. Police who were on duty maintaining order were celebrating with smiles from ear to ear. The whole city was on cloud nine. The whole city became a party.
My friend that invited us to the watch party has been a Preds fan for a long time and she just kept yelling, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it!”
So back to that moment at a crowded rooftop bar on Broadway (the street right next to the arena). Groups of people dancing to the music that pumped from the speakers, bartenders working at a breakneck pace to keep up with the demand for drinks, couples making out everywhere. And somehow I had squeezed all the way to the end of the rooftop. I was leaning on a rail that overlooked the city pondering how and why I have a bright yellow Preds shirt and a Jack and Coke in hand on this night. How had I even become a hockey fan? How did I get swept up in the Preds Playoff Mania?
My only explanation – Yet another gift.
My life took an unexpected turn about two years ago.
I found myself back in the U.S. for the first time in 7 years and my landing spot – Nashville, Tennessee. As painful as the transition has been for me, it has also been, for lack of a better term, enlightening.
If it wasn’t for my move to Nashville, I would not have become a member of a church that is truly catered to my spiritual needs.
If it wasn’t for my move to Nashville, I would not have met my counselor (Jedi Master) to whom I owe my life!
If it wasn’t for my move to Nashville, I would not have been able to meet my new friends, reconnect with family, and question my motivations regarding my career.
If it wasn’t for my move to Nashville, I would not have found SA. Enough said.
My two years in this up and coming city has brought many challenges but mainly has given me a new lease on life.
“God disciplines those he loves, Chris.” – My Jedi Master
I hold tightly to the truth that God brought me here not because He wanted to punish me. He did not want to rub my nose in the mud of defeat and shame. He brought me here to save me. It was the only way to save me from my own self-destruction.
Has my journey been humbling? Of course.
But that’s the point I think – my path toward enlightenment must be centered in humility.
I am humbled at every turn of how much I need others in my life to navigate my illness. I am humbled every day when God chooses to enlighten me with the truth of His love and forgiveness. I am humbled when I realize that I am right where I need to be as long as I continue to surrender to His will for my life.
Humility leads to enlightenment. Enlightenment helps me appreciate the gifts of the present. Last night was a special night. It was special for the Predators team, for the city of Nashville, and for me.
It was special mainly because thanks to my new lease on life, I see experiences such as last night as a gift from God. He was smiling last night not necessarily because of who won a game, but because I believe He enjoys when his children experience happiness.
That may be a simple concept to most, but for me it has been very enlightening.