Tim Tebow first became known as a Heisman Trophy winner, but in the years since, he has lived out his heart’s cry to emphasize significance over success. I particularly love Tim’s heart for the vulnerable—those who society often overlooks because they act or speak or think differently. In today’s post, Tim gives us a glimpse of how young people with special needs have drawn him closer to a God of abundant love. It’s a pleasure to welcome him to the farm’s front porch today….
I will never forget the first time the idea of hosting proms for kids with special needs—which has come to be known as Night to Shine—came about.
I was talking to the director of our foundation about our upcoming fifth anniversary. He mentioned he knew of two churches in the country that were hosting special dances for people with developmental disabilities.
“Since you and the foundation love people with special needs, would you want to do something like that to celebrate our five-year anniversary?”
“Awesome! So right here in Jacksonville?”
I didn’t have to think twice. “Everywhere. I’d like to host these events all around the world!”
He looked at me like I had sprouted four heads. “No, seriously.”
“I am serious.”
“Their radiant faces reminded me that this was what it looks like to be embraced, accepted, and loved in the presence of His glory.”
I had big dreams in that moment—not that I knew how to execute them or even where to start! I just knew that I wanted more than a few glitzy parties—I wanted these events to be a showering of God’s love.
After months of planning, our first Night to Shine took place in North Carolina. As I watched the long line of guests walk the red carpet into the dance amid cheering crowds, my heart was overcome. I felt as if God was saying to each one: “I created you for a purpose. I love you without measure.” Their radiant faces reminded me that this was what it looks like to be embraced, accepted, and loved in the presence of His glory.
When I got into the car late that night to go home, I couldn’t stop crying. The world had come together to celebrate part of God’s creation that isn’t celebrated, loved, or walked down a red carpet as often as it should be. Our annual Night to Shine events quickly became my favorite nights of the year.
In 2020, we helped sponsor our first Night to Shine in Paris. The City of Lights is nothing short of beautiful with its labyrinth of cobblestone streets and the Eiffel Tower, which bursts with golden sparkles of lights at the beginning of every hour from sundown to 1 a.m. But all that magical wonder paled in comparison to the beauty I witnessed from a young woman that evening.
As Night to Shine guests began their celebratory jaunt down the red carpet, I noticed a girl in a wheelchair being rolled down. Dressed in all black, she wore a red baseball cap that covered the crown of her beautiful tight curls. A smile swelled from cheek to cheek. Her rigid hands met each other in a spastic, awkward rhythm, over and over, the entire length of the red carpet, as she squealed in utter delight at the crowd who celebrated her with shouts and applause.
Fifteen minutes later, this young lady was back—this time without a wheelchair. No, she wasn’t healed. Her ability to walk didn’t change, but she seemed to be so motivated by the cheers around her that she had to at least try. With the help of a volunteer, she made her second entrance down the red carpet.
“As she marched forward with confidence, her warm smile illuminated more radiance than the glowing Eiffel Tower.”
The beautiful scene brought tears to my eyes. I wasn’t sure what disability she had, but she obviously had a hard time walking. She’d swing one stiff leg up in the air (parallel to the floor), stomp it down on the ground, and do the same thing with the next leg, kind of like a soldier’s march. As she marched forward with confidence, her warm smile illuminated more radiance than the glowing Eiffel Tower.
I can still picture that young woman’s face, her head bobbing up and down with glee as her smile curled up into her eyes. She seemed astonished as she drenched the attention lavished on her.
I like to think that for a few short minutes this woman felt so cherished and so encouraged that she decided to try to walk. She may have needed help. It may not have looked like the type of walking many of us are used to seeing. But as this woman raised one stiff leg up and then another, she seemed to gain more confidence with every step. And if it was even possible, her smile swelled further, drowning her face in the purest kind of joy.
Watching her made me think of something: I want to be the reason that people think they can.
What inside of you helps others believe that they can? Your personal success? Maybe. Definitely your sense of significance. But even more than that, if you are a believer, it’s Jesus.
“Because of Jesus, we have the hope and glory of living not for the temporary but for what’s eternal.”
Because of Jesus, we have the hope and glory of living not for the temporary but for what’s eternal. We have the opportunity to radiate an awareness of God’s love for us and God’s love for others. We can choose to look at our disadvantages as opportunities. And through the choices we make, we see the hand of providence cover our wounds, our scars, our flaws, our questions, our waiting, our doubts, and our pain with goodness, with grace, and with purpose: “God is able to make all grace overflow to you, so that, always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9:8).]
Every single one of us has a chance to make a difference—not because we’re great or qualified or successful but because we’ve teamed up with the God of the universe. Because when we know God’s love, anything is possible.
Tim Tebow is a two-time national champion, Heisman Trophy winner, first-round NFL draft pick, and a former professional baseball player. His new book, “Mission Possible” helps readers find their mission, pursue purpose, and create a life that counts.
Let this book ignite a new spark in your life. Wherever you are, whatever your work, you can find God’s purpose for your life. Accomplish the mission that you have already been called to and equipped for. It’s never too early and it’s never too late to start living a mission possible life. Find your mission, pursue your purpose, and go create a life that counts.
[ Our humble thanks to WaterBrook for their partnership in today’s devotion ]