Jesus, the Iowa State Cyclones and the Comeback Kids

March 17, 2015 | 12 comments

I confessed on the blog yesterday that my mind occasionally wanders during worship.

But sometimes? That wandering ends up being the truest worship.

Take Sunday afternoon, for instance.

My favorite farmer and I attended a worship event with a few dozen friends. The music was great, the speaker was engaging, and the communion table was inviting.

But my mind kept wandering to a basketball game that we’d watched on TV the night before. Our beloved Cyclones were playing the Kansas Jayhawks for the Big 12 title. Around halftime, things were not looking good for our team. ISU was behind by 17 points.

Toward the beginning of the game, the announcers had been calling the Cyclones the Comeback Kids, because ISU had come from behind to win several of the previous games.

But as the game wore on, everyone’s optimism for a comeback seemed to fade. A Cyclone win seemed as probable as me pole-vaulting over our barn. Wasn’t gonna happen. 

But then, everything changed. The Cyclones were unstoppable. They embarked on a 17-2 run against the Jayhawks. When the Cyclones won, our house — out here on the great plains of Iowa — erupted in ear-splitting cheers. (In a burst of althetic bravado and optimism, I wondered, briefly, where I might find a pole-vault stick.)

The game ended, and the Comeback Kids raised their Big 12 title trophy in the air. In that moment, I wanted to find every oversized, cardinal-and-gold cheer bow in the great State of Iowa, and clip it to the top of my head. Then I would run around the neighborhood doing herkies and toe-touches and spirit fingers, while shouting, “We are the Comeback Kids!!”

But then, I suddenly remembered where I was: the hushed sanctuary of a church. 

Just then, it hit me. It hit me when I looked at the communion table in the front of the church.

We belong to the Comeback Kid. Jesus is the Comeback Kid.

More than 2,000 years ago, every ounce of hope had been lost. Jesus had been crucified. His followers scattered. The enemy laughed. His friends mourned. His body lay lifeless.

The scoreboard seemed to say this:

Devil – 1.
Jesus – 0.

All optimism faded. A comeback looked far worse than improbable. It looked impossible.

But that was Friday. Saturday was halftime. And Sunday was still to come.

And that’s when it happened — on a Sunday. One crazy act of God changed everything. And it changed us. Jesus rose from the dead as the greatest Comeback Kid in history.

That afternoon in church, we were invited to take part in communion. To me, the table looked like the victory feast of the Comeback Kid.

A long line of people walked down the center aisle to take part in that Victory Feast.

And because we know each other, we know each others’ stories. We know why everyone is celebrating, because we know what they’ve been saved from, and what they’re daily being saved from — broken marriages, addictions, despair.

Because of Jesus, we’re all Comeback Kids.

I don’t know what you’ve been rescued from. Or maybe you’re still waiting for a come-from-behind victory. Maybe something pretty big is dragging you down today. But I do know that even if you’re on the losing side today, this game ain’t over. Maybe you’re sitting in the halftime of your life, thinking it looks pretty hopeless, there in the middle of your diagnosis, your broken marriage, your tired nights, your door-slamming conversation with a wayward daughter.

Your trouble doesn’t have the last word on your life. Because you belong to the Comeback Kid.

Your win-loss record doesn’t define you. The scoreboard doesn’t own you. You think you’ve fouled out? Even THAT doesn’t determine the final outcome. The game has already been won by the Comeback Kid, your personal MVP.

The victory table has already been set. Come forward, and receive.

(And that Comeback Kid who rescued you long ago? He’s coming back again.)



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by | March 17, 2015 | 12 comments


  1. Mary

    Love this! I’m smiling real big right now because I am a huge college basketball-Xavier in Cincinnati and we made the dance too! What I really like is how you turned this story into God’s story with your comparison to Jesus as the Comeback Kid! Hugs and here’s to successful tourney play for everyone’s favorite team!

  2. Lisa notes...

    Jesus is the Comeback Kid. Yes! Love this analogy, Jennifer. My Auburn Tigers had a few Cinderella games in the SEC basketball tournament last week as well, but our luck finally ran out. No dance for us (again) this year. Congratulations to your Cyclones!

  3. Dawn

    Trouble, diagnosis, labels… etc.. they don’t have the last word on our lives, do they, Jennifer? Thank God that He alone has the power to define our living and to grant entrance into that home he builds in our exiting of this life. I was just telling my children that our life is but a vapor, a puff… a whisp… and it is gone. What are we doing with it? What are we spending our time, our words, our dreams upon? And then there are the worries, the pains deep in our hearts that wear us down and leave us breathless that we spend our energy on. Yet, like the comeback that only comes in participating on the winning team whose story looks bleak, but there is One who sees clearly that the outcome of a miracle win is not only possible but definitely probable, Because.He.Already. Got. The. Victory!

    It is so good to be on His winning team and to have the chance to share that journey with others, thanks for sharing your always inspirational stories!

  4. Anna

    Thank you so much for this! I SO needed to hear/read this today. God will have the last say: over the dark cloud that wraps around me trapping me, over the awful suffering of cancer, over heartwrenching grief and separation, over hatred that cuts deep, over my own inescapable sinful nature….our Comeback King! Oh how I look forward to that day.

  5. Kristi Woods

    He specializes in comebacks that look impossible. Yes indeed. What hope is there! Keeping that truth in front of me today. Thanks, Jennifer.

  6. Betsy Cruz

    “Your trouble doesn’t have the last word on your life. Because you belong to the Comback Kid.” What encouragement this offers me today, Jennifer. I pray that many will be touched by hope as they read this today. I’m smiling over the fact that God speaks to us even through college basketball! Yay!

  7. Alecia Simersky

    “My win-loss record doesn’t define me. The scoreboard doesn’t own me.” Much needed words to remind this weary soul. Thank you for being you.

  8. Lyli Dunbar

    Yes and Amen

    I love a good comeback [Cue the theme to Rocky here.]

  9. Nancy Ruegg

    Thank you, Jennifer, for a post filled with hope and laced with humor. (I can just imagine you shouting “We’re the Comeback Kids!” in the middle of a communion service.) Praise God we are ALL Comeback Kids!

  10. Elizabeth Stewart

    My husband often says, “If you don’t quit, you win.” I’m sure many of us quit before we see the comeback.

  11. Carmen Horne

    I have heard the only way to fail is to quit. I’m sure glad “Friday” wasn’t the end of the story! You are a great storyteller. It’s an art, and you have it. Wonderful.

  12. Kaitlyn

    Loved this one. Great writing, friend. Great message.



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