Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Heat-Spurs Game 6, and Christian Joy

By any estimation, last night's Game 6 between the Spurs and Heat
was one of the best games in NBA history. The Heat rallied from what looked like a certain loss, led by man-beast Lebron James in the fourth, to force overtime (and eventually win). Ray Allen's three pointer to tie with less than six seconds left will go down as one of the great clutch shots in NBA history.

On ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike in the Morning today, the discussion involved who was to blame for the Spurs blowing such a big lead. Should Popovich have pulled Manu out of the game, should Duncan have been in on the final play, etc.

Guest Dan LeBetard made a spot-on observation at this point. He questioned why it is that we always try to find the negative (who to blame for the loss) instead of focusing on the positive (a classic game with an historic comeback, led by this generation's best player)?

LeBetard pointed out that the same is true of us in regular life. We go to an amusement park or Disney and we complain about the high prices or the crowds or the heat or the rides that we can't go to, rather than enjoying the magical moments we are experiencing.

I think LeBetard is definitely onto something here. We have a natural, worldly tendency to seek out the negative, to find the disappointment, to revel in the dark times. We want to be disappointed, to some degree.

Contrast this with Christian joy, one of the fruits of spiritual living according to our Scripture. The Greek word for joy (chara) derives from the word for grace (charis): the implication being that joy is not mere happiness or momentary pleasure, but rather a profound and spiritual appreciation for the receipt of something that we do not deserve.

We did not deserve, or do anything to earn, the right for last night's basketball game to be excellent. So a person with a spiritual worldview would, according to Paul, receive joy in the watching--appreciation and pleasure for getting to enjoy something that we did nothing to earn.

When you go to an amusement park it is true that you paid to get in, and therefore one would be right to be disappointed or upset if you were denied the right to enter. But once you have entered, you have no right to expect, nor have you done any work to deserve, that the rides are all available or lines are all short or the day is not too hot. Therefore a spiritual lifestyle will focus us not on the negative things that aren't perfect, but rather seek joy in the magic that is available to us.

Therein, for me, lies the key spiritual attitude, the deep truth underneath LeBetard's wise observation: the worldly man selfishly believes that all things should go his way, and thus hates anything imperfect; whereas the spiritual man believes he does not deserve anything from those around him, and thus finds at least some joy in any situation.

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