I recently watched the movie, Draft Day, starring Kevin Costner. It was an interesting (supposed) peek into the shrewd world of power plays among National Football League general managers as they jockey to make the best deals on, wait for it…the yearly NFL Draft Day. I’d say it was a mostly solid 3-out-of-5 sort of movie, enjoyable but nothing special. Yet one thing stood out. What arrested my attention was the final, big reveal on a visual tease that ran through the whole movie involving a Post-It note. Kevin Costner’s character, Sonny Weaver, Jr, in only his second year as GM for Cleveland, is feeling Herculean pressures from all sides (the arrogant owner, the difficult coach, the even more difficult fans) to elevate the pitiful Browns into a team of national contenders. He has to make big, smart plays, which means we glimpse the political machinations at work, the salary cap issue, the various strengths and weaknesses of the key players his staff has been researching, as well as the poker game he must play with other GM’s who are playing poker right back at him.
But all along, we see Sonny continually referring to the same little Post-It note he started with earlier that morning. He wrote the note himself, stuck it in his pocket, and then keeps referring to it as the day wears on and the stress level rises.
Finally, the draft begins. By making a painful trade that puts the entire future of his franchise on the line, Sonny secures the enviable #1 pick of the first round. Perfect, now he can get the obvious choice, the much-hyped #1 QB candidate. Instead, he unilaterally chooses the strong, but less regarded linebacker, Vontae Mack. What?! How could he! Cue the shock, the screaming fans, the angry boss, the disgusted coach. But Sonny had a hunch, that Vontae was the real deal, while the other guy was hollow at the core. It’s all rather predictable on the one hand—perhaps even more as you see the wily Costner follow up by pulling rabbit after triumphant rabbit out of his trading hat, leaving him sitting real pretty at the end. Schmuck to hero, as expected.
But here’s the deal: I’m not doing a movie review. I’m describing what struck me, so I’m taking the drama at face value. Everything Sonny does is risky, dangerous, and, while calculated, comes with no guarantees. It works out well because it’s Hollywood, but it could have flopped. The degree to which these maneuvers actually affect the viewer isn’t so much because the plot isn’t falsely contrived (it is), but because we can all recognize those moments where we don’t know what to do, yet must do something anyway. Maybe we have a gut hunch, a wing, a prayer; maybe little more than a dogged determination to soldier on. The older I get, the more normal this becomes. As a man, husband, father, teacher and leader, I’m required to draw lines in the form of clear decisions based on difficult circumstances that are often fuzzy simply because life is complicated. Those fuzzy lines seem to have more and more riding on them: my family’s well-being, finances, preparing for an uncertain future, grounding my kids in love and truth, preparing them to launch out and raise their own kids someday soon. Issues of revival, prayer, dreams, doubts. Personal, societal, political, relational. On and on, everything matters, yet life offers none of the paint-by-numbers security we crave. We don’t really know what the picture will look like after we’ve drawn those lines. It’s simply, “Oh Jesus, help me! What do I do now?”
And this is what touched me. At the end, after weathering the draft day storm, I don’t care that we all knew Costner would come out on top. What matters is that Post-It note. When he lays it on the table for me, the viewer, to finally read, it simply said:
“Vontae Mack no matter what.”
No. Matter. What. He carried it with him all day. He clutched it in his fist when the heat was hottest and the fog was thickest. He fumbled it, strayed from it, even doubted it, but in the end, that simple determination governed him, guided him, through the storm. When no one supported him or even thought he was sane, the fictional Sonny Weaver, Jr, had one thing, his No Matter What.
What is mine? What is yours? What is the thing you hold onto when everything else is slippery? I don’t mean Jesus or the Bible, that’s a given. That’s too easy. I mean an inner value, a principle of decision-making, a clarity of purpose or identity that keeps you true when the ground wobbles. Because here’s the thing, we’d like to find the kind of answer that can be recycled, like one size fits all, but life in the Spirit typically requires fresh words. That’s what the Post-It note was for Sonny—it was the conviction he needed for draft day. The day before and the day after, it didn’t really matter. In my world, it’s a rhema, a now word. An anchor. In the season you are in right now, what is that thing? Write it down, stick it in your pocket, hang it on your heart. If you don’t know it, find it. If you are relying on last season’s word, discover what God is saying now.
No matter what…this.