I have wanted to write this piece for awhile now. For almost two months, in fact. I have held off on writing this kind of post because it involves sensitive material and it is on such an emotionally charged topic. Plus, this kind of material has never been the focus of this blog, which has been on-the-field issues.
I have also been apprehensive in writing about this because it definitely puts my beliefs out in the open. There is a certain amount of risk in putting yourself out there on topics such as this. Plus, I run the risk of alienating some of my regular readers. But a writer who is vulnerable, shares his/her opinions, and is honest is the kind of writer I am drawn to. With this week being Easter, I am even more convicted to publish this piece. So, here goes.
What Ray Rice allegedly did in the early morning of February 15, 2014, was despicable. It was unacceptable on every level. There is never, ever a reason to strike a woman. Your fiancé and the mother of your child? Never. It doesn’t matter the circumstances of why what happened happened. Those are meaningless and empty excuses. It is wrong. Point blank, end of discussion.
Discussing what happened on February 15 is not the point of this piece. In some aspects, it doesn’t matter because there is no way to go back in time and change that horrible night. The past is just that, the past. For all of us, the past is out of our control. In my opinion, what matters most is how one handles tragedy, heartache, brokenness, embarrassment, and shame. Those are the things that we can control.
My hope and prayer is that February 15 provided a fork in the road for Rice.
The past year has been inauspicious and out of character for Rice. Following the Super Bowl triumph, he came to training camp overweight and played most of the season in the same state. In September, the Browns’ Phil Taylor alleged that Rice spit on him. Flash forward to his lone breakout game of the season against the Chicago Bears. In the aftermath, Rice made a backhanded compliment to his offensive line—he made a joke that he didn’t know what to do because the offensive line had finally opened huge holes for him to run through. While true, this type of open criticism of his teammates was unusual for him.
I have never met the man, nor do I claim to know the inner-workings of any man’s heart and soul, but this all seemed like erratic behavior for someone we have “known” through the public eye. Rice was the last person expected to end up on the police blotter.
But again, this piece is not to rehash the past. I only write about those things because it seems like when we look at the last year, a pattern was beginning to emerge for Rice. Hence, the hope that this last incident—while much larger, much more serious, and infinitely more damaging—was an opportunity for him to make changes in his life.
I hope that Rice finds mercy and grace. Mercy and grace from the travails he has created on his own. I hope he is able to come to terms with his failure as a man and his shortcomings as a loving partner to his now wife, Janay Palmer. I hope Rice surrenders himself to the point where sincere soul searching can lead to change. I hope grace and mercy find a willing Ray Rice.
But most importantly, I hope that this broken relationship between Rice and Palmer is transformed through grace and mercy.
But then again, isn’t grace and mercy what we all need? We are broken people who fall short of perfection. We are flawed people who live in an incredibly flawed world. When we face brokenness, tragedy, and pain, whether heaped on us or caused by us, wouldn’t grace and mercy be a welcomed relief?
But therein lies another issue—what if this was heaped upon you? Why on Earth would Palmer ever want to reconcile with someone who allegedly knocked her unconscious? Imagine the apprehensiveness, distrust, and utter pain that must be coursing through her heart and soul. How can she ever be healed from that level of brokenness? How can she ever trust him again? Should she ever even entertain that option? The simple answer to those questions is that she should walk away and never turn back.
But, how powerful is grace? Can it possibly lead to forgiveness and reconciliation not only for an individual, but for an entire relationship?
Reports that Rice and Palmer have sought counseling indicate that they are both making the necessary steps toward forgiveness and reconciliation. A young family is at stake, and healing is needed. There is a reason why things came to a head in that casino in Atlantic City on February 15. Pain, anger, and resentment may have been part of that mix. Dealing with those issues, and whatever else may be part of the equation, is essential. My hope is that this couple finds forgiveness and reconciliation—honest and true reconciliation.
I loved the message that owner Steve Bisciotti and head coach John Harbaugh have sent about this sad story of pain and brokenness. Harbaugh was quoted as saying, “He's (Rice’s) a person of character. The thing that's really important is to be able to support the person without condoning the action. He makes a mistake. There's no justifying what happened.” I want people in my life to hold me accountable and make me a better person. I hope Rice realizes what a gift of grace and mercy he is receiving from the team’s leadership.
Whether Rice plays another down for the Ravens is irrelevant. My purple leanings are irrelevant in this case. This is not about football. This is about a man, a woman, and a family. Grace and mercy, and forgiveness and reconciliation, are welcome for all to receive who truly want it.
I choose not to cast a stone at Rice. I am choosing to root for him to find grace and mercy, and for grace and mercy to find a man who is willing and able to accept it.
I wonder, just how powerful is grace?
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An avid sports fan, and a passionate Ravens fan. However, I don't always wear the purple-shaded glasses.