Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Arrested Development

Two years ago, following a personal choice to face the nation and answer the poignant question about his future, Lebron James wanted to know what we thought. He came to us without prosthetics, puppets, or Pussycat Dolls. He spoke through a viral video, succinctly and deftly, with a plea to his followers.

Should I be who you want me to be?

At first glance, “Rise” reads like misplaced corporate altruism, like if the New Jersey Devils suddenly built a park in downtown Newark to divert attention from an intricate sandbagging operation. The commercial sounded like the brief survey after a long retail phone call, and smelled like an olive branch trapped under a turd.

(I couldn't find the original Nike "Lebron Rise" on the Internet anymore...so, you'll just have to piece it together amidst the Cleveland sorrow.)

But for the first time, we got to hear Lebron’s voice. Sure, it was autotuned by Michael Jordan’s parent company, but you could still make out the intimation of sorrow and guilt. Lebron wanted to fix his mistake, and realized that he’d have to evaluate his constituents on a global scale.

He was the ultimate chameleon: You dictate the environment, and I’ll shed my skin to adapt. America, I will change for you.

The King wanted to become all things to all people, and was willing to let us rip the skin off his chest for an extreme makeover. Too bad humans aren’t reptiles. Lebron James gave us the keys to his kingdom, and we thanked him by ripping his skin off so ferociously that he bled. 

Sound familiar?

2,000 years ago, before The Decision…a popular dude with a tunic asked his best friends a question. Who do people say that I am? And his boys didn’t really know how to respond. I mean, seriously…people around the world were calling him all sorts of things, comparing him to old prophets, old teachers, people who got respect from their granddaddies and great-grandaddies. They had NO idea Jesus was the Son of the Living God…a dude way greater than any prophet, teacher, or pastor before his time. After all, he looked like a normal dude, ate food with everybody in the neighborhood, and even cried when his friends died. The first dude to figure that out was Peter, his right hand man…and that was only via spiritual revelation, not second-hand information. (Read Matthew 16:13-17....it's all there.)

Lebron’s first mistake was hurting our feelings. His second was giving us his kingdom as an apology gift. It’s like never letting your girlfriend see where you live, and then asking her for a ride home after breaking up with her in front of all her friends. What do you think is going to happen?

In defending the need for an electoral college, Alexander Hamilton said that “the masses are [expletive]”. In other words, we don’t know what the heck we want. Did you know that Cheerios now has 12 different flavors of cereal? And if the world can’t even decide on what to eat for breakfast, how can we accurately guide your life? ANYTHING IS POSSIBLEEEEEEEEE…except that.

Lebron’s third mistake? He forgot that he was the King of Basketball.

From the jump, Jesus knew he was great. Not destined for greatness, but that he was already great. Knowledge of an already existent greatness allowed Jesus to operate with authority. Jesus healed the sick, raised people from the dead, and fed 5,000 people with a picnic lunch without fear of failure. Lebron wanted a crash course in human evolution, but we arrested his development. Lebron was afraid to fail at basketball, but forgot that he was personally incapable of failure. And when he looked to the world for reassurance, we told him that he’d never succeed.

Game 6 was a turning point in Lebron James’s basketball life. He was either going to soar like Daedalus – or fall like Icarus – with no in-between. Lebron poured in basket after basket, making a grizzled face that looked even more menacing with his silver mouth guard. The haters pinned him to the mat and told him to die, but he chose otherwise. He played with an authority specifically tailored to his specs. And for those 48 minutes, we once again bore witness.

Here's a secret: Before you “rise” up, you must be cast down. In order to be superior, you must first be inferior. Lebron didn’t know that. Heck, Jesus immediately foreshadowed his death as soon as Peter declared him as God in the flesh. You got to die to your convictions, even those that seem right…in order to unlock true greatness. There’s a reason MJ stopped playing over 40 minutes a game when Phil arrived.

People gravitate to superstars because we only get to see them be super. We root for Michael Jordan because his basketball game is an anomaly to reality. We never see him make a mistake, so he doesn't make mistakes. It's a stupid consideration, but it just speaks to the power of the imagination.

I root for Lebron James because I want to see him rise above the hate. I root for Lebron James because I want to see everyone walk in authority. I root for Lebron James because he reminds me of my frailty.

I root for Lebron James because in his successes – and failures – I am reminded of the only way to live free from failure – Jesus Christ.  

- M.B., II

No comments:

Post a Comment