No Turning Back

Rashawn CopelandBy Rashawn Copeland6 Minutes

Excerpt Taken from No Turning Back: Escape Your Past, Empower Your Present, and Experience God’s Best for You by Rashawn Copeland


WHEN I WAS GROWING UP, Oklahoma Sooner football dominated many of my thoughts. I dreamed of putting on that crimson and cream jersey and exiting the tunnel at Owen Field, blinking in the sunlight as thousands of Sooner fans screamed us toward victory. Boomer . . . Sooners!!!

A fan in the truest sense of the word, I began planning early on how and when I could get recruited by OU. It seemed the easiest route would involve moving from Florida to Oklahoma, establishing residency, and applying for “in-state” admission. So I did what any incoming sophomore in high school full of his own plans and dreams would do and asked my dad if I could move to Oklahoma. I had an aunt and cousins who lived there, and fortunately they agreed to take me in. Though I still sometimes can’t believe it, my parents said yes and off I went. Let’s go!

The first month was like a dream. I was on my way; I loved going to school with my cousins; everything was new and exciting. As the days flew by and the weeks added up to months, though, I started to experience a sadness I just couldn’t shake.

I know many of you did not grow up with healthy relationships with your parents. I grieve with you over that. God gave me strong bonds with my folks, though, and I missed them terribly when I lived in Oklahoma.

Since my aunt wasn’t married and my cousins’ dad was not part of their everyday lives, I had no father figure in Oklahoma. It honestly surprised me how much I missed that. Being apart from my dad helped me realize what his steadying, guiding presence provided for me. I noticed a sense of recklessness and rebelliousness cropping up in me, and though I wasn’t a believer at the time, I knew these feelings weren’t leading me anywhere good. If I’d been at home, Dad would have given me a stern talking-to about some of my ways. I might have rolled my eyes (only after he left the room, of course) at his protectiveness, but when the security of my father’s presence and his solid advice were no longer readily available, I truly missed them. The truth is, at that point my dad was the only “ever-present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1 NIV) I knew.

I also missed his love. It was a love I never had to question. Fifteen-year-old guys—particularly focused athletes like I was—aren’t really “supposed” to talk about missing their dad’s love. What? Whatever. I totally missed the words, “Son, I love you,” which my dad often said, and the bear hugs he’d freely give. Because this was 2003, before technology brought humanity video chatting and social media, I had to rely on written texts, scattered phone calls, and snail-mail letters (yes, some of us actually remember sending and receiving things other than ads and bills via our mailboxes).

By the time I flew back to Florida for Christmas break, I literally ached to be at home with my father. When I de-planed in Miami and Dad put his arms around me, I actually cried.

It’s been said that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and “you don’t really know what you have until it’s gone.” Both of these proved true as I missed my dad. But as I reflect back on this season of life, I also realize God was teaching me an even deeper truth, a truth I wouldn’t fully understand until years later, when I began walking more closely with Jesus.

It’s one thing to be told that you are loved. That’s a gift. It’s an even greater treasure to know that you are loved. But guess what! It’s the greatest gift of all to experience love, to be caught up in the warm embrace of a papa who loves you, who puts your head against his chest and affirms, “I love you.” Experiencing love empowers us; it changes things. It changes everything.

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