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More of His glory

It happened over twenty years ago but I remember it clearly.  There was even an article about it in the local paper --- with a picture no less of me playing against him. I came across it the other day when I was going through some things.   

We were living in Sumter, South Carolina, and there were several guys who would get together at the local “Y” at lunchtime a few times a week to play basketball.  There was nothing glorious or glamorous about it --- just some guys (mostly between twenty-five and forty-five and past whatever athletic prime we had enjoyed), letting off some steam and getting some exercise.  The people who worked at the ‘Y’ referred to our time together as“Elbows for lunch.”

One day a guy named Chris (who used to live in Sumter and was back for a visit), walks in with a friend.  Sides are picked and they’re on the opposing team.  As my team is deciding who is going to guard who on the other team, no one wants to guard the guy who came in with Chris.  Darryl, who was ‘the man’ in basketball, wants nothing to do with him.  A smarter person would have taken this as a hint.  Instead, I take a quick glance at Chris’ friend --- he was maybe an inch shorter and ten pounds lighter than me, and volunteer to guard him (inwardly disparaging my teammates for their absence of backbone).

The game isn’t more than a few minutes along before I am recalling all of the proverbs which say something about the folly of speaking rashly.  My man is dominating me!  I can’t stop him when he has the ball and he is having no trouble guarding me.  And looking back on it, I now realize he was probably playing about half-speed.  Fortunately, my teammates (the ones I had belittled), are keeping our team in the game and it’s tied up --- the next team to score wins.

Their team has the ball and everyone knows what’s going to happen.  They’re going to get the ball to the guy I’m guarding.  I know this and tell myself that he’s not scoring the game winner on me.  I’m going to play him hard and foul him if I have to.  I do all of that and he still scores --- game over.

The losers have to sit out the next game while another group of guys take their place.  I slump down on the bleachers next to Dennis, who is a sports columnist for the local paper.  I said something to the effect of it’s bad enough when you lose, but when you lose because you can’t guard your man, it stinks.  Dennis laughs (not the response I was going for).  He says, “Don’t you know who that was that you were guarding?  That’s David Thompson.”

The name David Thompson means next to nothing to most people today but at one time, he was ‘the man.’ While at North Carolina State, his team won the national championship.  He was two-time college player of the year.  He went on to a professional career where he was an all-star several times and scored 73 points in a game.  When Michael Jordan was asked what player he patterned his game after, his answer was --- David Thompson.  Fittingly, when Jordan was inducted to the NBA Hall of Fame, it was Thompson who introduced him.

I have mixed feelings upon hearing this from Dennis.  I realize I’m not just having a bad day on the court; I was over matched big time.  But I’m also reeling a little because David Thompson is no stranger to me.  I’d kept up with his career since his college days --- the year they were undefeated but on probation and unable to play for the national championship and the following year, when they dethroned seven time defending champions, UCLA, in a thrilling double-overtime game before defeating Marquette and Al McGuire in the finals. 

So how is it that I was playing against David Thompson and didn’t even know it?  My best answer is that it just never occurred to me that he would show up at the Sumter ‘Y’ to play with the elbows for lunch crowd.  What would he be doing on the court with guys like us?  It would sort of be beneath him, wouldn’t it?

I think this is the kind of thought process that many entertained in regard to the Messiah.  “He can’t be from Nazareth, He can’t be the carpenter’s kid, He can’t have brothers and sisters” --- that’s just not how they saw the Messiah. 

But that’s how God saw Him and that was what mattered.  It should be obvious that in regard to so many things, we just don’t think like our Father.  The Scripture acknowledges as much (Isaiah 55:8-9), and we would be wise to note this and store it away for those occasions where we’re convinced God couldn’t or wouldn’t do something. The Almighty doesn’t fit very well in our boxes, our buildings, or our boundaries.  You think we would learn this after all of the stories in the gospels, the book of Job, and the rest of Scripture but the temptation to make Him over in our image is powerful and hard to resist. 

Of course, the trouble with messages such as this one is that people who have no regard for  Scripture feel like this somehow is an endorsement of that and they can just ignore everything it says (or at least the part that rubs them the wrong way).  Meanwhile, the people who need to hear this and loosen up a bit can only think of the previous group of people and (rightly) don’t want to go in that direction --- so they stay where they are.  I’m sure I’m being overly pessimistic here --- after all, God can help us to be balanced in all of this.

May He draw us close and help us to keep our eyes open to more of His glory.
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