I recently had the opportunity to meet Travis Freeman, author of Lights Out, at a pre-screening of the film loosely based on his life, 23 Blast. I'm a sucker for sports movies and always enjoy seeing well-made Christian films, but this one exceeded my expectations. It's currently playing in theaters around the country, and I highly recommend going to see it! Here's a review of the movie from NFL player Rob Gronkowski.
Travis's parents (Larry and Mary Freeman), Travis, and director Dylan Baker answer questions from the audience
When I heard Travis had written a book, I couldn't wait to read and review it for my blog, and his publisher graciously sent me a copy for that purpose. A few thoughts I had as a made my way through the book...
This is not your typical football story.
This is not your typical faith story.
This is not even your typical story of overcoming the odds to do great things.
Yes, all of those things are part of Travis's journey, but the way he tells the extraordinary experiences of his life make them relatable and accessible. He is a son, a student, a football player, a seminary graduate, a preacher, a professor, and he also happens to be blind.
At the age of 12, Travis contracted an infection which led to the complete loss of his eyesight. As a Christian, there's part of me that wants to go, Really, God? Why does a twelve-year-old kid have to suffer through something like that at such a young age?
Travis's response then was one rooted in the strong faith his parents and community had encouraged throughout his life. His parents remember him saying, "I'll believe I'll see again, but if I don't, I can't wait to see what God's going to do with my life."
And God has certainly done marvelous things through his life. Travis had an awesome coach who didn't believe the loss of his eyesight necessarily meant the loss of his long-dreamed-about football career. He trained him to play center, which Travis went on to do throughout junior high and high school. Rather than follow advice from some professionals that he attend a special school for the blind, Travis and his parents decided he would work with a mobility coach to helped him navigate his regular campus. Time after time, his family sought God's wisdom on how best to deal with the unique challenges they were facing.
The book doesn't present a sugar-coated, glossed-over, once-I-found-Jesus-my-life-was-perfect testimony. Instead, readers will find the reality of both walking through life's deserts and also finding peace and relief at the oases God provides.
As Travis writes,
The thing is, everyone has challenges, they're just different than mine most of the time...
We're all wandering around in this desert of a broken planet, trying to find our way to the next oasis. Most of the time, I'm afforded a little more grace on the journey because I'm making my way in the literal dark. What could happen, though, if we granted each other a little more grace automatically?
What I loved most about this book is how it made me reflect on God's faithfulness to me in my own times of suffering. And how, as Travis highlights so well, God has a purpose for the suffering we endure.
As I'm sure you can tell, I'm a big fan of both the book and the movie, and I plan on getting multiple copies of the book as Christmas presents. I hope you'll join me!
To hear more from Travis about his life story, check out his interview with writer Mike McClelland.
And here's Travis talking a bit about the movie 23 Blast: