I’m not sure what the answer would have been on the question of “What are the odds you’ll have two pieces of content today, Dater, that will aggregate what two Avalanche players said on podcasts recently” but I would probably, conservatively, estimate that to be 10,000-1 or so. And yet, here we are. Avalanche D-man Josh Manson was on a podcast called “Sports Spectrum” and I, for one, found it to be great. To listen to the full episode, click here.
It’s a podcast about the intersection of sports and faith, something I’m very interested in these days. I think one of my big problems the last few years has been letting my own spiritual feelings and beliefs take a back seat to more worldly matters like career and status and all that other stuff. And, I’m still in one heck of a fight/crossroads about it all. I’m just not an easy convert/member of the flock. I have serious questions on everything, why we’re here, why things are the way they are, why it’s such an unfair world, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.
A quick story: Back when I was 21 or so, I moved from N.H. to Cape Cod for a summer. The girlfriend I had at the time, Sheila, was big into the Lord and so, therefore, I was too all of a sudden. We went to a charismatic church together and I tried speaking in tongues and things like that. Basically, I started out just trying to impress her on all this, of course. I’m thankful there are no cell phone videos of me trying to speak in tongues, because I had no idea what I was doing or what any of it meant.
But here’s the thing: I have always been very interested in spiritual matters. I went to church with my mom as a young boy, and I got to know the Bible more, ironically enough, from a movie my father did with Johnny Cash called “The Gospel Road.” It’s the literal story of the Bible, up to the crucifiction, filmed on location in Israel and financed by Mr. Cash himself. It’s still very much a cult classic. My dad filmed some of it, did the sound on some of it and also played the part of Nicodemus.
(If you look at the movie credits on this classic, original poster of the 1973 film, you’ll see my dad’s name in there)
Despite being baffled by the speaking-in-tongues part, I really got into it. I had my interest in God and Jesus and the Bible all rekindled, and, as I tend to do with anything I get interested in, really immersed myself into it. I read a lot of books, including the Bible, and started to feel like this all would become the central part of my life. And, that felt good. I liked the feeling of “I’m going to live forever in heaven, and so why worry about making my rent this month?” Stuff like that.
Sheila and I eventually broke up, but God and The Meaning Of It All has never been far away from my mind. I was very disillusioned by some fellow church members, though, who said that if I didn’t quit college and just go to work for the Lord, even if it just meant bagging groceries all day at my local supermarket, that I would burn in Hell and not do God’s wishes. I thought, ‘God wants more from me than that” and basically told the parishoners to go eff themselves.
But I want to know what, if anything, comes next after we leave this mortal coil. For a long time, I had a fear of dying young. For instance: In my early days of covering the Avalanche for The Denver Post, I would worry myself sick – literally – that I’d die in a plane crash and that my dream job would be over before it really got started.
Like, I would stress for at least two full days before any flight I had scheduled. If we hit any kind of turbulence at all, I’d immediately bury my face in a hand and think, “That’s it. We’re going down.” Usually I just waited it out, but not before my blood pressure jumped about 50 points. A couple of times, I got so panicked that I truly did need intervention from flight attendants. Usually, just them talking to me would get me through. But, at least one of the times, a flight attendant just handed me a couple of those little bottles of wine and told me to chug them.
As an older man of 57 now, I actually have little fear of flying now, or of dying really. For me, and I’m only speaking for myself, once I got into my 50s I stopped worrying about things like that as much. “I’ve lived a good life, I mostly accomplished a lot of the things I wanted to accomplish,” I’d tell myself, and so if it all ended at that moment, I’d be OK. We’re all going to die at some point, you know.
My problem is: I transferred the worry onto other things. Regrets. Beating myself up, over and over and over, for past mistakes. Chastising myself for some slip of the tongue, or some other undesirable stuff. If there’s any chance for me to beat up on myself for some imperfect moment, I’m going to do it. That explains some of my current mindset, which I’ve hinted at recently. I think I’ll be OK, but it’s been a real struggle of late.
I don’t want you to think I’m kind of fishing for compliments by saying this, though. That would actually only make me feel worse. I think I’ve only got so long for God to be proud of me, and right now I don’t think I’m there.
That’s what really worries me. But it’s so hard. I just can’t be one of those people who just goes along with everything and doesn’t question it. For me, I have a really hard time with questions to God like, “Why do young kids die of starvation God? Why do you allow that to happen, if you’re so kind and compassionate and don’t give anyone “more than they can bear?”
I’m not too satisfied with the answer I get from clergy and others on that question. “Well, it’s just God’s plan.” Well, sorry, but that’s a crap plan then. Kids literally die from all kinds of horrible things – torture, starvation, neglect, abuse – and I just have to accept that it’s God’s Plan that that happens to them on their time on earth, but some bubble-headed idiot lives a long life of comfort and riches and “sin” and, yet, they get into Heaven too, if they just ask for a mulligan on their deathbed?
Sorry, but that’s illogical. And yet, I definitely believe there’s a God. There NO CHANCE this whole earth and universe just happened, without some intelligent design. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
Go ask an atheist sometime how the Big Bang started, and you’ll get a look of “I have no idea.” Yeah, sorry, but that’s bad science. Tell me how something was created out of nothing and duplicate that in a lab and get back to me. That’s where faith comes in. I just have questions about God’s Plan, I guess. But not too many. I sort of just think now that it’s all beyond our human comprehension, and we’ll either know what it’s all about someday, or we won’t. But I believe we will.
Which leads me to the words of Josh Manson on the podcast. Some highlights:
- When he was put in a period of uncertainty, whether the Anaheim Ducks would actually trade him or not at the deadline, as the new GM of the team hinted to him would happen, he put everything in God’s hands. “God is always there with you, but that was when you start to lean in a bit heavier and have to put your trust in Him a lot. ‘What does the future hold? Well, I don’t know, but you know.’ That was a big part, those couple weeks before the trade deadline – really leaning on Him, and just sitting back, but the anxiety hits, the stress hits. Just letting it all kind of go, and trusting in Him.”
- “Where I ended up, it ended up being a huge blessing. Part of God’s plan. Little did I know it at that time.”
- “They were hungry to win. … It was hard to feel that winning feeling again, but when I came into the dressing room it was “We want to win.”
- “There were some questions to (God) as to why? I think I’d be lying if I said, ‘Why did it have to go like this?’ I think our plan was to stay in Anaheim. We enjoyed where we were, we had a house there and we made a lot of friends, put a lot of time and energy and blood, sweat and tears into that organization. We were wanting to stay. And so, there was a little bit of that ‘why? Why are we moving, God? Why is this happening?’ And then it kind of turned into, ‘Well, OK, look at the opportunity He’s presenting to you, in front of us.'”
- “Then, it was just like, ‘OK, sit back, let it happen, trust in what’s going to happen.” But that’s an easy thing to do. And there were a lot of challenges with that, and a lot of prayer and a lot of reflection and talking to God and just trying to listen and have faith in what His plan was going to be.”
- Manson said he doesn’t swear in the locker room, which is hard. Everybody swears in a hockey locker room. Some teammates started to pick up on that and think it was “cool” in a way.
- Manson said he read the Bible every single day of the playoffs. He read for 30 minutes after lunch every day.
- He said those two months of the playoffs were “the most conversations I’ve had with God I think, in my life.”
I know some people here will automatically rip me here for being “religious.” I’m NOT here to preach and judge and all that. I just wanted to share what I feel, in the context of what another Avalanche player feels.