Every kid that picks up a ball and begins playing a competitive sport ultimately dreams of becoming a millionaire professional athlete. So, what happens when a young man has the opportunity of a lifetime right in front of him and decides to, as Robert Frost would say, “take the road less traveled?” This situation was tackled head on by Chris Norman.
Chris Norman is from Detroit, Michigan and admitted that his first love was basketball however; he eventually fell in love with the game of football. Norman finished his high school career as one of the top outside linebackers in the United States and earned a scholarship to play football at Michigan State University. After being a four-year letter winner and a three-year starter for the Spartans, it seemed Norman was on the cusp of changing his life and the lives of his family, forever. The change wasn’t exactly what his friends and family had in mind.
The beginning of Norman’s change in lifestyle came during the 2011 Capital One Bowl against the University of Alabama. It was in this game that Norman suffered a devastating injury, tearing his triceps tendon, and the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. It was the first time in his life that he had to sit by idly, missing the game he loved while rehabbing from the injury.
“I got lost…and I realized that there must be more to life that just a football game,” Norman said regarding this tough time.
Simply by chance, or perhaps divine intervention, Norman was invited to attend a Christian camp for athletes. It was at the camp that the Lord opened Norman’s heart to His truth. Norman noticed that the people at the camp were different; they absolutely loved and enjoyed Jesus Christ.
Norman noted, “At this camp, I had seen something that was so different from what I had saw growing up so long in the church. I saw young men and women doing similar things, they were nice people but the key difference was that they made it evident that they absolutely loved Jesus Christ. And I could see that they enjoyed Him and I didn’t know that Jesus could be enjoyed.”
On May 24, 2011, Norman gave his life to Christ and it would soon be obvious that he would “transformed by the renewing of his mind (Romans 12:2).” During his senior year in college, Norman noticed that his soul became restless. Then, after reading John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life while riding the bus to his final collegiate football game and sensing the Lord’s calling on his life, Norman decided to give up his dreams of playing football professionally and instead, decided to enroll in seminary.
Norman’s decision was not without controversy. Many people told him that he would be wasting the platform that the Lord gave him to share the Gospel. Others believed he was passing up a chance to provide financially for his family. Norman held steadfast and chose to follow where God led him.
The day after he decided to attend seminary, Norman received a phone call from a friend regarding a church in Southfield, Michigan. It just so happened that the pastor of the church had heard about Norman’s remarkable decision and offered him a job working with the church and its associated school. Not only did the church provide Norman with a job, but they also offered to pay for his entire seminary education.
God does change the hearts of man and Chris Norman’s story offers undisputable proof. How many high level athletes would pass up the chance to make millions of dollars to play a sport that they love in order to pursue the Lord’s calling? While many may criticize Norman’s decision, the Lord has and will continue to guide his steps. Scripture tells us that “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Matt. 9:37).” With the tough times in Detroit, it would appear that the city needs the Lord’s servants and evangelists now more than ever. We may not know if Chris Norman is a Lecrae fan but he does know that his city needs the Gospel and he answered the call by simply saying, “send me, I’ll go.”
To watch more about Chris Norman’s story, please see the video below!