If you think that the television series Friday Night Lights is a show about football, you would only be partially correct. Based on a book about an actual high school football team in Odessa, Texas as well as a subsequent movie of the same name, the narratives in the show revolve around people and activities in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas. The plot follows highs and lows during the high school football season of the Dillon Panthers; we meet the players, their families, and their coach—a committed, compassionate ex-player named Eric Taylor.
Part coming of age story, part family dramedy, part soap opera, the show started under the radar but grew in viewership over five seasons and retains popularity on streaming services now. Because it focuses on so many aspects of human interaction in a small town, people with wildly varied interests can enjoy the show. It even presents a respectful view of Christianity rarely found in popular entertainment.
At one point during the first season of Friday Night Lights, Coach Taylor is in the locker room giving a much-needed inspirational half-time talk to his players. Such speeches are used so often in so many underdog stories that they verge on cliché. (When was the first rendition? Shakespeare’s Henry V?) Even so, from a dramatic standpoint, when done well the rousing call-to-action speech can be very effective. In this particular scene, Coach Taylor reaches a crescendo with what has become the most famous line from the show: “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!”
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. This rallying cry has all sorts of applications. Since spoken on that show by that character, these words have been appropriated by actual athletes and coaches, celebrities, and politicians. They work pretty well in the Christian universe, too. Because our faith demands that we encounter the world around us with vision unobstructed by subjective reactivity. Believing in God and following Jesus Christ doesn’t sugar-coat suffering; neither does our discipleship prescribe joy or limit the expansive nature of life lived fully. Much of Scripture urges us to wake up to reality in the present moment, encountering it without any overlay of sentiment or harsh judgement.
At the same time, our vision—no matter how clear it is—means nothing if our hearts are not full. Passion and passionate commitment is most sustainable when emerging from seeing whatever is before us as it really is. The lifegiving work of love is a byproduct of this clarity and our heartfelt response. In that work, the concept of loss is not applicable. We can’t lose because whatever falls away as we live fully and love heartily was probably extraneous in the first place; weighing us down as we seek the Resurrection hope.