GOD LOVES BASKETBALL
Some years ago, I had a dream. Unfortunately, it was not one of those Martin Luther King Jr. kinds of dream, but a dream that came on after watching too much basketball during the NCAA Finals. The dream itself was short and the people in it indistinguishable. I was here at Mount Calvary, in the atrium, and I was shaking hands with two people on their way to an adult class that was titled MYSTERIOUS JOY IN THE PAINT. They showed me the handout listing it as the 4th in a series of 6 classes. I looked at it and gave it back. That was it. The whole dream. I woke up. And I was unable to go back to sleep because I knew. I just knew this was a message from God.
I knew what it meant right away. You see, like me, God loves basketball. It has long been my favorite game to play and God’s to watch (golf is too boring). I played it even though I lacked important skills. The PAINT is that part of the basketball court from directly under the basket out to the free throw line also called the free throw lane. It’s that part of the court where there is lots of contact and struggling for position using arms, elbows, hips and legs. It’s where I usually played and where my friends gave me my basketball nickname…borrowed from former NBA star Charles Barkley…the Round Mound of Rebound. Nice.
What I knew immediately in my dream was that this was a word of encouragement. God was reminding me to look for and find joy in my struggles. MYSTERIOUS JOY IN THE PAINT was a reminder that one of the great miracles, mysteries and graces of God is the way Jesus births joy even in difficult places where we are being pushed, elbowed and jostled around by life. There is joy in the paint because God is there. Happiness is that fleeting feeling you get when life is uncontested, smooth sailing and comfortable. Joy is the birthright of faith that we discover in the battle, the strife, the wrestling and the pain. And one of the great mysteries of joy, unlike happiness, is its resiliency, its rootedness, and its strength. Joy is the deep-seated attitude that one gains when one knows God is life, God is love. God is good, working in all things, in all struggles FOR good.
I could not fall back to sleep that night. I had heard the message…to get in the paint, to stay in that contested, jostled place…and get to work; to pray that in some small way I might show God’s presence and Christ’s love…to look for and point to and pray for and hold on to the joy and the good that at times can seem so elusive and lost. To disciple as one who not only says but believes that God works in all things, all times, all manners of life…for good and with grace. Because, people of God, if God doesn’t…if we don’t…if it is not true…it’s game over. And for the life of me, I know that is never true.