“Men, we have quite a responsibility to Michael,” Coach Murray said. He paused to let the words sink in, extending his right fist forward slightly toward the center of the locker room for emphasis.
“He’s listening every time we play.”
Meet Michael Kuras. Michael is 24 years old and lives in Southwest Michigan. An avid football and hockey fan, Michael never misses watching or listening to a game of his three favorite teams—the Detroit Red Wings, the Kalamazoo Wings, and the Western Michigan University Broncos. Even if they play on the same night.
“He’ll follow all three,” Michael’s mom Debbie told me. “He’ll have the Red Wings on TV, the K-Wings on one radio, and the Broncos on another radio. All at the same time.” While all this is going on, Michael will also be checking how his fantasy team is performing, so it is fair to say he never misses a beat of his favorite sporting action.
These days, in his early 20’s, Michael should be enjoying the fun, the challenge, and the adventure of the “prime years” of his young life—complete with plenty of hockey and football games. But Michael has been dealt a different hand. He is in the midst of a challenge and adventure that is anything but fun.
Michael is battling cancer.
I first learned of Michael’s story when a friend of mine connected me with Michael’s uncle. Determined to make a memory for Michael and provide him with some hope during the throes of chemotherapy, Michael’s uncle asked him, “What would you like Michael?”
Without blinking Michael asked to meet two pretty important people from his favorite college team: Coach Andy Murray and Coach P.J. Fleck, the head hockey and football coaches at Western Michigan University.
A couple phone calls and a few days later and I found myself moved to tears as I watched the Bronco Hockey and Football teams embrace Michael as they would a teammate. Hockey players fist bumped Michael as they exited the ice after pre-game practice. Each took turns signing a white jersey with black Broncos letters and gold trim for Michael, sharing their name, their hometown, and their well-wishes for his health and recovery. Football players gathered around Michael as he was asked to break the team down after practice. Each player signed an oar for Michael’s room, symbolic of Coach Fleck’s program rally cry “Row The Boat.”
As I watched Michael walk into the tunnel and up the exit ramp of Waldo Stadium, a tired smile on his face from his memorable morning, I reflected on what had just unfolded in the preceding hours. We had all just witnessed the power of a platform.
plat · form (noun)
a position of influence that can be used to make a positive difference
In our sports-frenzied society, arguably no one has a more powerful platform than athletes and coaches. But platforms aren’t just for sports figures, celebrities, politicians, and CEO’s. We all have a platform of power.
If you are a parent…
If you have a sibling…
If you are a friend to someone…
If you have a social media account…
If you are an employee or student…
If you have something you can give away…
If you can send a text message…
If you take time to smile at someone else…
If you will write a handwritten note…
If you are able to pray…
If you have any human interaction in a given day…
…you have a platform.
Having a platform means we have power. We are owners of an opportunity. We have something to be desired. We have the chance to change a life.
But what we have means nothing. What we do with what we have means everything.
So how do we ensure we use the platforms of power in our lives to the best of our abilities? The best answer I’ve found is hidden in the life story of a man named Naaman, found in 2 Kings 5, around the year 860 B.C.
Naaman was the commander of the army of Aram (present-day Syria) and he had it going on. He was successful, influential, and admired. He is described as “a great man”, “highly regarded”, and “a valiant soldier.” He had a platform full of power.
But he also had a problem. He had leprosy—an infectious, painful, skin disease. However, thanks to the encouragement of his wife’s household servant, Naaman goes to Israel to see the prophet Elisha. There, in miraculous fashion, Naaman is healed in the waters of the Jordan River. But his healing goes deeper than the external—Naaman is healed internally as well. And it is here, in the new Naaman, we see a model example of how to best use the platforms of power in our lives.
- REALIZE the power of your platform
Naaman came to realize the source and the span of his power. He understood that the source of power in his life was, in fact, God. (“Now I know there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” 5:15) He saw he had not come to prominence by his own doing, but rather God had allowed him to have power and a platform. Naaman also came to see the span of his power—the many people affected by his life and decisions—and he reacts with humble gratitude. (“So please accept a gift from your servant.” 5:15)
If we’re honest, most of us downplay and discount how much power we have. When we step back and realize how powerful we can be—how many platforms we have to affect the lives of others, even through the simple things of daily life like a smile, a kind word, a pat on the back, a handwritten note, or an uplifting text message—we begin to see the span of our influence is actually quite large. We begin to see the source of our power is outside ourselves—the ultimate grantor of power is God. Romans 13:1 reminds us “there is no authority except that which God has established.”
- RETURN with a new perspective
Have you ever listened to an inspiring sermon or read convicting book and left thinking ‘I have to quit my job, sell everything, and go on a new life path!’? After realizing the source and span of his power, that’s what the new Naaman did, right?
Naaman returned to being the commander of the army of Aram. But he did so with dirt and determination. He asks for as much dirt as 2 mules can carry (we’ll see why shortly) and says he will never worship anyone or anything but the One True God. In other words, once he realized the power of his platform, he carried it with him and he made up his mind he would use it differently than he ever had before.
Once we realize the power of our platforms, a new life path is probably not the answer (although it could be!), but a new perspective is. It’s about realizing the impact of our actions and then returning to our platforms—our homes, our families, our jobs, our schools, our communities—with the determination to use our platform for the service and benefit of those around us.
- RESPOND with a changed life
After he realized his power and returned to his commander post with a new perspective, Naaman did something that might seem odd. He asked for forgiveness in advance for bowing down to the Syrian cult/pagan religion God Rimmon with his boss, the king. On the surface this seems like hypocrisy, but if we study further, we see Naaman is responding with a changed life.
Commentators hypothesize when Naaman entered the temple with the king, he spread a little of the aforementioned Israeli dirt on the floor before he knelt, symbolically showing he was not bowing to Rimmon, but rather, to the True God. He didn’t depart his post of the army, he didn’t disrespect his leader—he decided to live differently. From right where he was.
After realizing our power and returning to our platform with perspective, it’s time to respond. To live our beliefs. To be a good steward of our power by radically giving it away, expecting nothing in return. To return to our homes, schools, workplaces, and communities and live in a way that is attractive and inspiring.
That unforgettable Saturday morning, the Bronco hockey and football programs had a platform of power because Michael wanted to meet them. But it didn’t really matter what they had. It mattered what they did. And what they did was make a memory of hope for Michael and his family. They gave their power away and used their platform as athletes and coaches to make a positive difference.
In our leadership journeys, may we follow their example, and the example of Naaman. May we realize our power, return to our platform with perspective, and respond with a changed life—ready and willing to give our power away, for the Glory of God and the benefit of others.