Some people leave a much larger impact on us than the average person. It seems that God uses them to show the depth of his grace for us. Through simple interactions, our wounds are somehow smaller after crossing their path than they had been. Where hurt and brokenness once where there is now hope and peace. Joe Young was God’s grace to me.
While I was at Toccoa Falls College the depth of my character could justifiably be questioned. Good choices were not my specialty nor was humility something I was interested in. Things got so bad that I was brought before the discipline committee and expulsion was the topic for the day. Even though I was allowed to stay in school there were those who felt it was in the best interest of the school to protect the other students from me. Joe was not one of those people. The night before I graduated Joe approached me at a banquet and told me about a conversation he had with one of the deans of the college. He told me how he was warned not to let me on the team, and how I would destroy the team. Coach continued to tell me how he said, “I’ll take a chance on him.” I think that’s what Jesus said about each one of us as he was wrestling in the garden before his arrest. “Are they worth it?” “Yes, I think I’ll take a chance.”
What is most amazing to me is that Coach knew to wait to tell me he had taken a chance on me. He must have seen how angry and alone I felt and how telling me this up front wouldn’t have been helpful. Like all good runners, he waited for the right moment to make his move. Waiting until I had healed enough to understand the risk he took for me. Joe had hardly known me before I had joined his team.
Joe pushed me harder than any coach before me. The entire season I was injured and every practice Joe made me run. Mind you he took care of me and watched out for me, but he still pushed me farther than I would have gone. Every day I would want to sit out and every day he made me run. Joe, knowing that I wasn’t in danger of being hurt worse, wanted me to push through so that once the pain was gone I would be faster and stronger than I ever thought I could be. I remember one race in particular where I called out to him as I ran past him, “Coach it hurts so bad.” Without hesitation, as if knowing I was going to say something to him he yelled back, “Everyone else is hurting too, KEEP GOING!”
That day changed my life. Everything Joe had been trying to teach me made sense, keep going. With Joe in mind, I’m going to keep going. When things go wrong, I’m going to keep going. When I feel lost in life, I’m going to keep going. When it feels like hope is lost, I’m going to keep going. And when my heart is heavy with grief and sadness at the loss of a friend, mentor, and coach, I’m going to keep going.
I know you didn’t walk to Jesus when you entered Heaven, I know you ran, and when I get to heaven I’m running first to Him and then I’m running to find you Joe