From the monthly archives: February 2013

We are pleased to present below all posts archived in 'February 2013'. If you still can't find what you are looking for, try using the search box.

The Anger and I: Finding the Grace to Be Vulnerable with Hidden Emotions

 

Through a year of dating and what has now been a year of marriage, there have been so many endearing qualities I’ve discovered about Mr. John Larsen! Such depth of heart and strength of character! There is no reason I should be married to such a wonderful, generous, kind and gracious man. 

That being said, however, on a particular occasion (and on several occasions since then) I discovered a trait that was less than attractive to me. It was, in fact, completely appalling: John Larsen makes his scrambled eggs differently than I ever would! He uses way more oil than I would; he mixes the eggs in a separate bowl rather than saving a dish by mixing them in the frying pan; there are, quite frankly, too many distinctions between our egg scrambling methods to list them all.

When I discovered John making eggs in such an unorthodox fashion, I reacted a bit strongly. Well, more than a bit. To be honest, I lost it. I felt so … angry.

Most of you are probably (hopefully) thinking, “Why were you angry? They’re just eggs.” This leads into the point of this post – I, Dani Larsen, have an anger problem. The anger I struggle with is a pathetic, selfish, ugly, ungodly sort of anger – not the righteous anger that Jesus felt when He was outraged at those who turned the temple into a marketplace. 

In a conversation with Cindy Sokoll last year, I learned that unrighteous anger is often an emotion that works as a defense mechanism, hiding a deeper, more vulnerable emotion. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” The potential of emotions that were hidden from my sight didn’t surprise me.

God has very graciously granted me some insight into my own heart in this area. As I’ve studied myself, I’ve found that anger has, in fact, become a prideful, destructive mask that I put on top of my more fragile, tender emotions – emotions like shame, sadness and fear. In many situations, rather than revealing one of these soft, hidden areas of my heart, I all but erupt with an unexplainable rage.

How sad these occurrences must be for God to look down on. Not only do I unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally) throw dark-hearted filth all over everyone involved in the situation, I also hinder my husband, my friends and God from bringing the healing power of grace, wisdom and love that can minister to the hurt that I’m hiding.

Over the past few months, God’s been leading me on a path through His Word, revealing truths to me about this sin that I am so easily overcome by. 

When God did not look with favor on Cain’s grain offering, Cain got very angry! I bet deep within he felt shame, sadness or confusion. But instead of responding with a contrite spirit, he reacted in anger, neglecting to do good after God told him, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” He then murdered his own brother (Genesis 4:4-7).

The synagogue ruler was indignant when, on a Sabbath, Jesus healed a woman who had been crippled for 18 years (Luke 13:14). Why would anyone respond in anger when such a beautiful miracle occurred before his eyes? Perhaps out of desperation to retain the respect and power of his position? Possibly due to utter confusion, unable to recognize the work of God in what he saw happening around him? 

If Cain and the synagogue ruler had searched out their hearts instead of reacting in anger, they may have discovered truer feelings hidden deep within. Had they responded humbly with those emotions rather than in anger, they may have been offered a refreshing counter-response. It’s finally hitting me that this is true for me as well. How wonderful would it be to experience full acceptance in response to my loneliness, unmoving love in response to my shame, mercy in response to my fear! But how can anyone offer these responses if I’m not vulnerable about those deep emotions?

This is even true in my relationship with God. Psalm 34:18 says, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” When I am angry, I do not allow myself to be broken or torn down; I stand strong and defensive. I should not find it surprising that I do not feel close to God when I’m grasping ahold of my sin, unable to recognize it, unyieldingly maintaining my prideful state.

I can’t put into words how much I desire for my heart to change in this area, to allow myself to experience true brokenness, thus leaving a place for God to draw near. Rather than responding with a prideful, hard anger, I deeply desire to grow in humility and repentance because there is such a beautiful promise to those who do – that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:20).

You may ask, “Dani, do you really believe this theory connects with something as silly as freaking out over scrambled eggs?” Well, even this silly incident has allowed me to understand more of myself (my unreasonable methods for upholding security and peace), and it’s allowed John to understand and meet me at a deeper level as he steps into my world and responds to the vulnerable concerns of my heart. 

Reaching the Nations in Fort Collins: Opportunities for International Connection

 

Looking for an opportunity to impact the nations for Jesus right here in Fort Collins?

Many of us probably have never heard about the opportunity to meet international college students through the Fort Collins International Center (FCIC). Though it is not a Christian-based organization, I believe that we as Christ's followers can have an amazing influence through the services they offer.

Home-stay program

When international students come to CSU, they often come without their housing arranged. FCIC pairs up students with host families for their first few days in Fort Collins as they look for housing. This is a time when they are very ready for help and hospitality while they get life under control, and the FCIS's Home-stay program allows us to do that just. I love this opportunity because you, your family or your D-Team has the chance to be the first Christians and Americans that a student will meet here. Some studies suggest that 80 percent of international students never step foot in an American home.

While I was single living with a group of Rock guys, we hosted two Chinese students in our home. Many other Rockers came to rally around and help these students feel welcome. This hosting experience was just the gateway experience of an on-going relationship that was full of meals, memories, spiritual conversations and even the sharing of the entire gospel!

To become a Home-stay host, fill out this form.

International Friendship program

This opportunity is a more of a long-term commitment. Basically, you get paired up with a student (often you get to share preferences for gender and nationality), and then commit to getting together once a month. You get to do whatever you want! Whatever you or your family or D-Team are up to, they jump in with what you're doing.
 
A few years back, I became friends a graduate student from India. He first spent an extended time with me at my parent's house over a Christmas break. He saw us pray and talk about Jesus, and we even took time to discuss the difference between Hinduism and Christianity. From there, our friendship took off. I introduced him to the game of racquetball, which we ended up playing together on a regular basis. Though he has since moved to another city after graduating, I look back on our time together with fond memories, and am grateful for the chance to represent Christ to a friend from another country.
 
To become an official International Friend, fill out this form.

Community welcome dinner program

At the beginning of each semester, new international students sign up for a family to eat a dinner with. It is a very natural time for asking lots of questions, sharing about life, culture and beliefs from both sides. The students often keep in touch with this family, as the meal is the first they eat in an American home.
 
In January, my wife and I hosted an Indian student in our home for the Home-stay program. One of his first nights here, he got dropped off at our home after enjoying a community welcome dinner with a nice young family with three boys. While he was there, he found out that the husband worked at a church. He asked him, “Do you happen to know John Larsen? He works for a church, too.” He ate dinner that night with the Ritters and was talking to Aaron! It was fun to see God’s sovereignty in that, and how we were working together to touch the same student with Jesus.

This coming fall is going to be a very big year for the welcome dinners. Since the program is run on volunteers, it will only continue if lots of families sign up. Over time, Summitview has gained a good reputation in adding a lot of support to the community welcome dinner program (and the other programs mentioned above). The probable date for this year's welcome dinner is Wednesday, August 21. To sign up for the community dinner, email Jean Griswold at jean.griswold@gmail.com. Tell her you’re interested in helping with the community welcome dinner.

Here is a very key detail on all of these opportunities to note: These programs have a very clear policy discouraging proselytizing. Although we should never stop talking about Jesus, there is some wisdom in knowing when to talk about Jesus. I've had the opportunity to share Jesus with each student I've known through these programs. However, I've been patient. Though I did make it clear I was a Christian from the get-go, I did not necessarily invite the student to follow Christ immediately. Jesus told the disciples to "be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." I think we should do the same in this opportunity.

Summitview's International Student Ministry (ISM)

God is doing an amazing work among international students through Summitview's International Student Ministry! In the past year, somewhere around a dozen international students have come to faith in Jesus Christ!

One of the ISM's events is a sport's night on Friday nights in our Gym. Recently, around 50 people have been showing up for these nights! The ratio leans toward internationals who don't know Christ than those who do know Christ.

Another tasty ISM gathering occurs on the first Sunday of every month. The ISM team and international students gather around some ethnic food, usually cooked by a "chef" from that country. They call it Sunday Night Chef. Also, each Sunday morning before our service, an international Bible study takes place in the Fellowship Room.

If you’re interested in joining in what our church is doing to touch international students with the gospel of Jesus Christ, feel free to get in contact with Aaron Ritter (aaronritter@summitview.com) or Ching Yu Wang (chingyu@e3lg.org). There is also an opportunity for long-term missions work in Asia. If you have a heart for the nations are interested in a long-term missions trip beginning this fall, contact Aaron and get all the info from him. Our Missions Fund campaign in April will also be a great time to connect our hearts and gifts with what God is doing around the world.

So, whether you have a free night here or there to help with an international event, or are looking for long-term missions opportunities, we would warmly welcome the help. As Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”

Count It All Joy: Drawing Close to Jesus in Life's Little Annoyances

 

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

 

In the past 48 hours I have:

  • Struggled for almost an hour trying to import some .jpg files to a digital picture frame my wife Faith received as a gift
  • Used my lunch break to walk 20 minutes to return a Redbox DVD only to find the machine full and unable to accept the return
  • Had some minor pain return to my left hip after I thought a chiropractic adjustment had taken care of it last week
  • Lost access to a particular network drive at my office rendering me unable to perform some important tasks
  • Gotten into an extended bedtime battle with my 2-year-old

None of these occurrences were catastrophic events. They rank somewhere between mild and moderate irritations. What was my response in each case? I got a little upset and cranky for a few minutes, but not too long. People who know me say I’m emotionally steady and rarely get worked up about circumstances. So none of these things got me too fired up and it didn’t take long to return to my usual stoic, unexcitable self. No harm done.

There are times when actual bad things happen in life. Car accidents, lost jobs, major illness, death of loved ones. These things will often cause Christians pray more fervently and to deepen their walk with Jesus.

However, most days for most people are pretty normal. As I think over the past few weeks, nothing jumps out at me as a trial where my faith was being tested. When I read James 1 and listen to teachings like this, my tendency is to tuck these truths into the back of my mind so I can recall it someday when I really need it—however many months that may be from now.

Then I get stuck holding Men in Black 3 at the DVD vending machine in a Loaf ‘N Jug parking lot. That’s not a trial. Trials are what happened to Job. My situation is just an inconvenience. I just have to remember to drive to another Redbox location after work. Obviously, my faith is not being tested and there is no crown of life up for grabs (James 1:12), so I’m justified in reacting with slight anger. It’s not really even something big enough to pray about. It’s silly to pray about barely-significant things. It’s perfectly fine for me to walk away, be a little grumpy for a few minutes and resent the Redbox company for not monitoring their inventory better.

Right?

Well, the verse does say “when you meet trials of various kinds.” I suppose various kinds would include everything from Faith getting cancer to a full DVD kiosk. The severity is different, but my response should be the same: Recognize God’s sovereignty; pray about the situation and my own attitude towards it; consider it pure joy. I would probably need many months to move through this process for the cancer but only 15-20 seconds for the DVD. If big trials can draw me closer to Jesus in big ways, why can’t little trials draw me closer to Jesus in little ways?

(Side note: Sometimes, during a moderate difficulty I will pray for God to allow me to learn whatever lesson is needed, lest he has to bring a larger difficultly to do the job. Perhaps that means I have wimpy faith, but for now I’m calling it exceptional wisdom.)

We tend to think of trials as life-altering events (or at least week-altering events), but I would argue that a spiritually sensitive person experiences five to 10 trials nearly every day. Lately, I’ve been trying to recognize each of these for what they are and take advantage of the opportunity to build steadfastness, which in turn makes me “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

So, Dear Reader of Summitview blogs, I will conclude with two action points:

1. If you ever notice me being grouchy because of some little thing, please gently remind me to let “steadfastness have its full effect.” (If I happen to be married to you, you might notice this happening a lot, so maybe you could consider a daily cap or something.)

2. Don’t wait for a meteor to explode your house to apply James 1:2-4. Count it all joy when you pull into the office parking lot and remember that your phone is back on your dresser…with your notes for today’s conference call. Let your steadfastness grow when your toddler disobeys by trying to pour her own orange juice…then loses her grip on the entire pitcher.

Then we will be lacking in nothing. What an amazing promise.


Travis Neidert is one of Summitview's three Benevolence deacons. You can learn more about our Benevolence ministry here.


Putting It All Together, Plus Vision for 2013: Answering Marvin the Martian, Part IV

 

On Sunday, January 13, Mitch Majeski’s sermon addressed the nature, function and characteristics of the global body of believers, the Christian Church. His message on January 20 detailed all the ways Summitview's vision fits inside the function and purpose of the church. We hope that this series of posts is a helpful refresher of who we are as Christ’s bride, and what our Savior is doing specifically in our context here in Fort Collins. Catch up on the earlier posts: Part I, Part II and Part III.


Answering Marvin the Martian has been a pleasant fiction. Building a definition for the Church from the ground up has a tendency to make things clearer. So what do we do with this clarity? How will we work together this year to strengthen Summitview Community Church to let it become all that God desires?

The answer to that question depends on the big red dot. You know, that dot on every good map that says, “You are here.” So, where are we? What strengths and opportunities can we leverage? What threatens our health and mission?

The Red Dot

We have much for which we can be thankful. God has graciously given Summitview a strong sense of unity and growing love of Jesus as our Head and sole delight. There are a growing number of mature, young aspiring leaders who are being equipped to set the pace for us for decades to come. And, financially, we remain steady with a slight increase in giving (approximately 4 percent) over the last year. 

These gifts are handed to us in the midst of some fairly significant challenges. American Christianity is on the decline. There is a growing noise in our culture (social media, increased connectedness to information and entertainment, etc.) that pushes thoughtfulness and undistracted time with God to the fringes. Orthodox Christianity is increasingly identified as “in the way” of progress on a host of social issues. Sexuality (as it always, eventually, does) has become the obsession and altar of our culture as a universally agreed upon source of transcendence. Our city is filled with worshippers. The gods of success, intellect, fitness, sexuality and fine craft beer loom large. Their altars are flooded and their influence is strong. 

Into these circumstances, this little band of Jesus followers carries the keys to the Kingdom. Let’s take the answers we provided Marvin and fit them into the framework of our three-pronged “warfare” to see how we can be faithful stewards of God’s gifts in 2013. 

The Church is a Commissioned and Empowered Group

The 2013 Air Campaign

"To Be An Ambassador"

This Sunday will be the final gathering for our “Ambassador” class. It has been a great joy to unite with more than 100 people and consider what it means to be a representative of Jesus in our time. Young and old have been equipped and have shared stories of courageously proclaiming the gospel to friends, neighbors and co-workers. You can find the recordings of each session and the supporting materials at the "Ambassador" class page.

"Foundations"

It is essential that Christians understand the big story of the Bible and the evidence for its reliability – especially in a post-Christian context. “Foundations” is a seven-week course that will address the Bible’s story and its reliability, while providing each participant with a tremendous tool for helping those interested in understanding the Christian worldview. The class starts Sunday, March 3. Sign up here!

Missions Fund campaign

 

I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. (Revelation 7:9)

 

We are so blessed. In His kindness, God has connected us with churches and church-planting efforts throughout Asia. Among that great multitude seen in Revelation will be people that our church has affected for good

This April we will again work to raise money to fully fund (for the third straight year) the Nepali Children’s Home and to strengthen our connections with other churches in Asia through long-term, nine-month mission trips. These trips will equip the missionaries for overseas missions or for greater impact in our burgeoning International Student Ministry. But it isn’t the money that matters; it’s the focus. As a commissioned people we have global opportunities that, if we make the most of them, will sharpen our focus on local opportunities. 

The 2013 Ground Campaign

Discipleship Teams

Our commissioning is a collective one. We are called to strive “side by side for the faith of the gospel.” Successful ambassadors of Christ work in teams. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Put some deer antler spray on your mission and join a Discipleship Team.

Hospitality

It’s easy to feel alone in a crowd. Our Sunday hospitality team is intent on graciously connecting with visitors who walk through our door looking for a connection with God and His people. The upcoming service rotation begins March 3. Email Travis Swartz (traviswalterswartz@gmail.com) if you’re interested in serving in this capacity.

International Student Ministry

Students from all over the world come to Fort Collins every year and many of them come eager to build friendships. There is a tremendous opportunity to love people and proclaim the hope of the gospel. This year we will continue to invite and equip people for this ministry to the world in our backyard. You can find more information about ISM here.

Faith Family Hospitality + Fort Collins Rescue Mission

Homelessness is a complicated issue but it is often a matter not of limited resources, but of limited relationships. We will continue to serve families without homes through Faith Family Hospitality, where several families use our facility as “home” for one week every three to four months. Stay tuned for how you can help, as our next rotation is March 17-24.

We have also developed a partnership with the Fort Collins Rescue Mission. On the fourth Saturday of each month, members of Summitview work together to prepare a meal and a short chapel service for the guests of the Mission. We’ll let you know how you can sign up for this amazing ministry opportunity.

Both of these ministries are relational in nature, and our prayer is that these relationships will be a source of genuine encouragement to those in need. 

Hand to Hand Combat in 2013

Ambassadors in our spheres of influence

What are the times and places that God has chosen for you to live? With whom do you rub shoulders every week? It is into this sphere that God has called you to be and make disciples of Jesus. 

The Church is a Holy Group

The 2013 Air Campaign

Sunday morning teaching

From now until August we will be looking at the book of Joshua and how God’s presence enables us to courageously enter the frontiers of faith. This series is critical because it is often in the midst of fear that we resort to sinful ways of providing security and, when we do, we lose our distinctiveness as God’s people. 

 

...we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you. (Colossians 1:4–6)

 

The book of Colossians is an excellent follow-up to our series on Joshua. Here Paul explains that true holiness grows out of a deep conviction of all that we have in the gospel. In other words, it is the grace of God that trains us to renounce ungodliness (Titus 2:11). The same message that saves people changes people. We'll dive into this epistle in late August. 

“Pure Strength”

Mushy, selfish masculinity will strip the church of its distinctiveness and affect. Our Front Range Men’s Conference – March 8-9 in Estes Park – will explore how biblical masculinity brings good to the world, how it is broken and how it can be redeemed. Sign up today!

Spring Training for Men

Beginning March 27, the men of Summitview will gather for five Wednesdays from 6-7:30 a.m. to consider the power of man-to-man relationships displayed throughout the Bible. Our goal is to reinforce the notion that to be disciples and maintain our distinctiveness, we need each other. Sign up information will be forthcoming.

The 2013 Ground Campaign

Discipleship Teams

The author of Hebrews says it best:

 

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:12–14)

 

This happens best in the supportive, grace-filled environment of a committed small group. Check out our seasons of life and consider joining a Discipleship Team today.

Hand to Hand Combat in 2013

Life Transformation Groups (LTGs)

These are subsets of our Discipleship Teams in which two to three people of the same gender invest in transparent relationships that help each other apply the gospel to individual struggles with fear, idolatry and discouragement. If you haven’t already, grab a copy of our guide to a successful LTG and build these critical relationships. 

The Church Is a Group of People Happily Devoted to Each Other

The 2013 Air Campaign

A culture of celebration

"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful" (Colossians 3:15).

Full disclosure? We have a tendency to be “useful little engines” at Summitview. Our focus on the mission can move us right past the big moments of triumph into the next big thing. That culture will eventually run out of gas. One of the key ways we can remember our first love is to celebrate His presence in our lives together. This year we are looking to make celebration a greater part of our culture. 

Our first step will be to set aside the final Sunday service in April to celebrate the conclusion of our missions campaign and all God has accomplished in our church this year. 

Women’s Ministry

Beginning this year, women’s ministry at Summitview will work to build a biblical perspective on feminine relationships. Every aspect of our women’s ministry will equip ladies to come together as friends, sisters and mentors, and encourage each other in their unique contribution to the glory of God in the world. 

The 2013 Ground Campaign

Discipleship Teams

They are kind of important in our church. Find a Discipleship Team that's right for you and get connected.

Catalyst Children’s Ministry

Though our children’s ministry is large, it really is a “ground war” effort. A small community of parents leads each classroom. A primary objective for “Catalyst” is for these parents to build a culture that values parenting, and for the participating parents to strengthen each other in the work of faith that is parenting.

Unforgiven: The Life and (Inevitable) Death of Michael Jordan

 

Michael Jordan turned 50 last Sunday. For many us who watched him play in the 1980s and ‘90s, we never thought he’d come down from a dunk, let alone turn 50.

Once upon a time, Michael Jeffrey Jordan won six NBA titles, six Finals MVPs, five regular-season MVPs, two Olympic gold medals (one as a member of the “Dream Team”), fundamentally changed the way athletes wear clothes and drink liquids, starred in a movie with Bugs Bunny and basically ruled the entire world through his mastery of the game of basketball. Every athletically inclined boy in America from elementary school through high school drank Gatorade, ate Wheaties and wore Air Jordans. 

I was one of those boys. I had the shoes. I still have his shoes. I had the posters on the wall. I remember exactly where I was and how crazy I went when he hit that 17-footer against the Utah Jazz in June of 1998 (RIP, Bryon Russell). When he came out of retirement the second time with the Washington Wizards, my family got tickets to see him play against the Nuggets. I thought my life was complete, seeing Air Jordan in the flesh. I was Simeon to Jordan’s Jesus.

You may think this sounds crazy. It is. And it isn’t. 

What goes up must come down

Jordan’s fiftieth birthday generated a lot of media attention, most of which centered on Jordan’s legacy and his place in basketball history. But Wright Thompson, a senior writer at ESPN.com, wrote a lengthy piece about Jordan’s life now.

It’s a remarkable, jaw-dropping read. Thompson punctuates his story with anecdotes of Jordan’s vicious, rage-filled competitiveness (more on this in a minute). But the heart of the piece focuses on Jordan’s inability to find purpose off the court. 

Writes Thompson: “His self-esteem has always been, as he says, ‘tied directly to the game.’ Without it, he feels adrift. Who am I? What am I doing?”

He quotes Jordan as saying, “Man, I wish I was playing right now. I would give up everything now to go back and play the game of basketball."

It’s all about relationships

Did you catch that phrase, “the game of basketball”? Most people would stop at “to go back and play.” Jordan is showing his love and reverence for the game by spelling it out fully. He has used this phrase repeatedly throughout his career. It’s an affirmation of his relationship with basketball. 

This relationship is fueled by much more than a mere “love of the game.”

In 2009, Jordan was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. His speech was a vindictive, I-told-you-so account of how he proved all his naysayers and detractors wrong. Everyone on the list, said Jordan, “added wood to the fire” of his competitive, all-consuming desire to win. (Profanity alert just before the three-minute mark. And for an experiment in contrasts, watch Jordan’s speech, then watch David Robinson’s earlier in the same induction ceremony.)


And where did this fire originate? With his father. Thompson pulls back the curtain on how the daddy issues began:

 

Jordan genuinely believed his father liked his older brother, Larry, more than he liked him, and he used that insecurity as motivation. He burned, and thought if he succeeded, he would demand an equal share of affection. His whole life has been about proving things, to the people around him, to strangers, to himself.

 

James Jordan, Sr. was murdered in 1993. Jordan won his fourth NBA title in 1996 – on Father’s Day. Cameras found him lying on the locker room floor after the game, sobbing uncontrollably.

One of the more fascinating details Thompson shares about Jordan’s life is his affinity for westerns. It was something he and his dad did together on a regular basis. “Jordan still watches them obsessively,” Thompson notes, “and it's easy to imagine he does it to feel the presence of his father.”

It took Michael a good minute or so to shut off the tears when he first reached the podium at the Hall of Fame ceremony. It’s possible the majority of those tears were for his father. The father who lit the fire; the father he wanted to prove himself to one more time, but couldn’t. Michael was still burning for affection. He was still trying to remind us that he belonged. This should break our hearts.

Near the very end of his speech, someone from the audience yelled, “You’re the greatest, Michael!”

As if we needed another reminder. But it seems that he did.

Death and basketball

There’s a particularly revealing point in his 2009 induction speech where we get the full view of Jordan’s (unhealthy/idolatrous) relationship with basketball:

“The game of basketball has been everything to me. My refuge. My place I’ve always gone when I’ve needed to find comfort and peace.”

And now? He tells Thompson, “How can I enjoy the next 20 years without so much of this consuming me? How can I find peace away from the game of basketball?”

Jordan is not having a mid-life crisis; he is having a life crisis. Imagine what this panic must be like for the man whom everyone, at one point in time, wanted to be like. All the significance, performance and hope that he’s poured into the game have backfired on him. He never thought he would have to deal with this nostalgia, this questioning, this second search for significance.

Why? “I thought I would die young,” he admitted to Thompson.

He’s found the one opponent he can’t compete against: a slow aging process, leading to death. Dying young would have solidified immortality. Now he’s watching LeBron James ascend to his own rarefied air.

One of James Jordan’s favorite westerns was Unforgiven. And it’s this movie that Michael himself is watching at 1 a.m. at the end of Thompson’s piece. This is not a minor detail. The burning. The relentless, cutthroat competitive nature. The never-ending justification by works. The reality of aging and mortality. Michael Jordan sees himself in William Money. Or maybe his father. But he’s finally realizing that we all have it coming.

He’s realizing the emptiness of gaining recognition and acceptance through performance. But he can’t bring himself to letting Someone else do the work for him. 

We’re all like Mike

“How can I find peace away from the game of basketball?”

The answer that haunts this question is Christ himself. Jordan found status and a fleeting form of acceptance in the game of basketball, but peace? Everything has rested on his performance being good enough to earn the favor of his opponents, the media and even his own father. There is no rest, no peace in this Unforgiven worldview.

But we need to understand that this tendency to prove ourselves, to make our vocation (or hobby) the distinguishing aspect of our identity is not something that only afflicts super-star athletes.

I played four years of basketball in high school, one in college and have coached six years at the high school level. For a long time, my heart was wrapped tightly around the identity I found in this game. It has taken me years to separate basketball me from the child of God me. But I still think I can play. I still think I can find meaning and acceptance through the game of basketball.

This trap of finding my significance in what I do followed me to the workplace after I graduated. It took a very painful firing from my first job after college to realize how deceived I was. I can identity with Jordan. I would especially argue that most men do identify with him. We try to save ourselves by our work, by that burning desire to prove we’re worthy of acceptance. But our efforts and those idols always fall short.

All of this is just an ego trip, anyway. We seek to become our own Messiah. Do you know what the code name Jordan’s security detail gives him? Jahweh. He literally is his own savior.

But why else do we spend so much time on Facebook? Jordan craves recognition and attention from his peers and his fans. Is what we do on our favorite social media outlet any different? It’s all one big performance, and our value rises and falls with the number of “likes,” friends and re-tweets we receive. We want others to worship us. The only difference between us and Jordan is a matter of scale. Our hearts are after the same thing. And it’s exhausting.

Jesus’ way is drastically different. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is unique among all other gospels in that it provides undeserved acceptance (salvation) as well as a calling to do significant work (Ephesians 2:10). But our Father’s favor never fluctuates with how many shots we make or miss. Only here can we find lasting peace.

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