But, today, I write very little about the game that JoePa so dearly loved and made his life work.
I write rather about the Final Chapter I hope and pray will be written over his life and the one that I cling to with all of the weary, the weighed down, the wanting-to-do-right-in-a-world-gone-wrong and who will undoubtedly find themselves powerless to cure, understand or even protect others from the depravity and evil that yet remain.
From a human standpoint, or perhaps because I am from a state where many are loyal to Penn State, where JoePa lived most of his life, I believe that his legacy will shine even though his last days as head coach were terribly marred.
It is rather, the one that the God who sees and redeems and has the final say over ALL THINGS writes for JoePa and for every person who has ever lived.
It is one of Scandalous Grace, so outlandish to lavish on but one of the poor and defiled who bear His image let alone the millions even billions throughout time.
It is the Same One who authors the life of Abraham. A man who put his wife in grave danger of abuse by denying that she was his wife to protect himself TWICE and thus handing her over to heathen kings. Yet he is hallowed forever as the forefather of faith to the blessing of myriad of nations and people.
It is the Same One who authors the life of David. A man whose victory over the great giant Goliath set him on the path to rule as a righteous king over Israel. But also one who slept with another man’s wife and murdered her husband so that he could have her all to himself. Yet his legacy is one of a ‘man after God’s own heart.’
It is the Same One who authors the life of Peter. A man who enjoyed an intimate inner circle relationship with the Savior of the World. Who boldly proclaimed that he would die for this Savior even before His Savior had died for him! Then in an hour of weakness he denies the One he’s sworn to die for, not once, or twice, but THREE TIMES. Yet it is his restoration and the renewed calling from Jesus that he be a shepherd to fledgling lambs, Christ’s first followers, that has the final say.
It is the Same One who authors the final chapters not only of the thief on the cross but of many death row inmates who in truly repenting have an Eternal Chapter grander than the ones written in time and space over the lives of the most heroic men and women.
It is outrageous to believe that the Grace of the Author of All Time extends to such as these.
And yet, it is no more outrageous to believe that that Grace extends to you and me.
We are each one made in His image bearing the Truth of His character in the deep places and yet we are born to the race of Adam. The race which has committed heinous acts in massacres and rapes and holocausts and gulags and all that mars every relationship where love is withheld and hatred flourishes in a lack of forgiveness, a resentment and a bitterness that shuts out the light.
And so in this light it is an easy yet full hope to trust in that Same One to write the last Eternal Chapter of JoePa’s life. A man who sought to lead and guide young men into maturity and faithfulness in all of life through the avenue of football and the commitment to the Institution it represented. A man who garnered 409 wins in the battlefield of the gridiron. Yet, a man who either through trusting too much, possessing a naivety to the depths of depravity one close to him could sink, maintaining a fierce full-out commitment to the nuts and bolts of the game he loved, maybe too much, or perhaps a combination of these underscored by the simple reality of being human, was unable to stop the evil that lurked.
But that evil can never have final say for the receivers of this Scandalous Grace. Its power triumphs, sees deepest trust where it lies and embraces all who stand upon THAT truth for ALL TIME with a ‘well done thou good and faithful servant’ as they enter their Forever Rest and so live in the Glories of this One Great Love :: The Eternally Perfect Final Chapter.