Saturday, March 15, 2008

March Madness

I used to have fun watching college basketball; especially my Hoosiers. Sure, we'd lose sometimes. The last 8 years or so haven't been up to standards, but there were still good times. Even when we lost, I'd enjoy the experience. And especially in March. Then, this had to happen:

A kid who has had a basketball career marked by miracle shots catches a ridiculous pass, and hits a ridiculous shot. As a side note, how could this happen? Has no one seen the Laettner shot? Give me a break; how could that scenario not be etched in coaches' minds and they have strategies developed to avoid such a debacle at all costs? Glue yourself to the shooters! Don't let them touch the ball! Guard the guy who can hit last second shots from his rump! (see video) Don't just guard him, bury him (without fouling)! Is that so hard? Hold out for 1.5 seconds!

I told my older brother after the game that I couldn't have scripted a more deflating loss. As a Hoosier fan, it was maybe the worst ever; more so because of the circumstances of the season. I can't imagine what it was like for the players. Start off the game flat, miss most all your shots, make an admirable comeback, take the lead with seconds to go behind the relentless toughness of your All-American, only to lose the game on one of the best plays ever. Eh.

But as with everything, the Sovereign Lord of the universe has calmed me down and by His grace I start to gain a little perspective. And this is not the "it's just a game" speech. This is, hopefully, something much more profound.

In the world in general yesterday 30 protesters were killed in riots in Tibet; an explosion in a coal mine killed 14 in China; the body of the kidnapped Iraqi Chaldean Archbishop was found outside Mosul; the surge in Iraq may or may not be working. And that's just from the headlines on the internet. In the sports world yesterday, a "possible" tornado roared through Atlanta causing damage to the Georgia Dome and screwing up the SEC tournament, and more storms are expected today; upsets and near upsets shattered the dreams of several college basketball teams, causing the NCAA tournament field to be a jumbled mess as usual. In the entertainment world, more celebrity-hopefuls are bracing themselves for another stressful contest on American idol this week, where one will say goodbye; many didn't nail the audition, or didn't get the record deal that they were banking on. In the academic world, many missed the curve, or failed the test, or didn't get accepted. In the professional world, many didn't get the job, or lost the job, or didn't get the bonus they were counting on, or went into bankruptcy.

In a million other unreported situations and in a million other unmeasurable ways, yesterday was a day of disappointment and loss. And today will be no different. And now, because of all this, everything in our life is all screwed up. But far be it from us to reduce the meaning and the relevance of Romans 8 to only physical suffering, or sickness, or death. It is sweet truth and hope and joy for those things. But too often we suffer disappointment in so many other ways that are eternally insignificant (like losing a basketball game) and we say, "it's just a game." Well, forget that. If God is sovereign and works out all things together for good, then aren't the disappointments in sports, music, entertainment, jobs, school, etc. also examples of frustration? Or futility? Or the bondage in Romans that Paul talks about and that God subjects us to in hope that we will be liberated? Not liberated like we won't ever lose again, or will always get the job or the money. But liberated, like really liberated: to always find our greatest joy in the glory of God, the Person and work of Jesus Christ, and in His coming kingdom, all the time. We will get there, by the Sovereign grace of God.

We will live in the frustration and agony of physical suffering, or sickness, or death. We can not escape that, and God has unfathomable grace to give us in those experiences. But we also all live everyday in the disappointment that seems to so easily derail our joy, or distract our lives, or even reduce our faith. Maybe we should look to the liberation and the deliverance and the truth that echoes even in these less significant disappointments as well. Our Lord is mighty to save and in our suffering and disappointment we show to the world that though our flesh and our heart (and our efforts and our dreams) may fail, He is the strength of our heart and our portion forever. And we will still run the race, play the game, sing the song, take the risk, do the deal; keeping our eye on the prize.

That's what I would tell my Hoosiers - maybe they will hire me as coach next year.

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