With a blue shoe on his left foot and a white one on his right, Tim Shaw, former linebacker for the Tennessee Titans, sat center stage at Lipscomb’s Gathering chapel and encouraged the Lipscomb community to embrace their unique gifts from God.
“Some may call me crazy [for wearing two different shoes], but it’s a small example of being able to remove myself from that idea that I need to be like everyone else,” said Shaw. “See, you’re different. God made you that way…and if you can understand and know who God made you to be – there is such freedom in embracing who you are. There is a freedom in walking to a room, and saying God made me this way and I don’t look like you, sound like you and can’t do the things you do, but I have my own unique gifts, and I am going to embrace that.”
On Tuesday, April 18, during the final Gathering chapel service of the 2016-17 school year, Shaw shared how he had lived the “American dream.”
After a successful collegiate football career at Penn State University, the Carolina Panthers drafted Shaw in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. In 2008, he was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars and played there for year before signing with the Chicago Bears. In 2010, the Tennessee Titans signed Shaw, and for the next three years, he played in 48 games and led the special teams as captain in 2011 and 2012.
“Playing football was the avenue that allowed me to be the most influential I could be for God,” said Shaw. “And at the time, I thought that football was the biggest thing I would ever accomplish in my life. Playing in the NFL is every man’s dream and I was doing it. But soon, I would realize there was so much more for me.”
In 2014, Shaw announced on his Instagram account that he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, through an Ice Bucket Challenge video that raises funds for the disease. ALS systematically kills motor neurons that go from the brain to the spinal cord to muscles throughout the body, and causes a loss of control of the muscles throughout the body.
“I was diagnosed with ALS, and this dang disease has been attacking me for three years now, and man it has been a battle everyday, but I am here and I am willing to fight,” said Shaw. “I have relied on this book called the Bible. I read it for a long time, and there is a lot of really cool stuff in there and a lot of really difficult stuff in there and there are a lot of promises. And one promise that I really don’t like is when God says those who follow me: you will be persecuted; there will be suffering and hardship in this world. I don’t like that.
“I thought my unique gift was to be able to hit people really hard and that was fun, but God was like, no that’s not it Tim – your gift is to be able to look people right in the eye and for them to feel your passion for life. Use that gift; it will never leave you. You may loose football, you may loose your body, you may loose your speech, but that look in your eye – you won’t loose that ever.”
Shaw asked the community to look at their own lives and ask the hard question of “am I living a life worthy of suffering?” He said it is important to recognize that life is short and one way to impact people for God is to live out a passionate life – like today is the most important day.
“I have the privilege to live that way,” said Shaw. “I have the honor and opportunity to live like every day is the most important day. It doesn’t mean I do world-changing things every day. It doesn’t mean that I make life decisions every day – it means that I get to ask God what do you have for me today? What is the most important thing?”
In January, Shaw released a book called “Blitz Your Life: Stories from an NFL and ALS Warrior,” which is a collection of reflections from Shaw on a life lived fearlessly and challenges from a man with a sense of urgency for impact.
Shaw said in 2014, he was told he only has five years to live, and because of this, he has a newfound urgency to make that time count for God.
“I can’t tell you guys how that has changed my life because I am thankful for the time I have,” said Shaw. “No one knows how much time they have. I don’t say that to be morbid or to scare you – but to urge you on. If you’re not laughing – you’re wrong. If you’re not having fun, if you’re not working hard, if you’re not pouring your heart into something – you are off. You’re missing it because we were made to pour our hearts into something, and rather someone. There really is nothing more important I can say than that – pour your heart out to God.”
The Gathering chapel ended with the Lipscomb community gathering around Shaw and praying for his life and ministry.