Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
I just returned from the Final Four in Atlanta. At times I forgot there was even a game being played. Our tickets happened to be in the NCAA coach’s section. Tom Izzo, Michigan State’s head basketball coach was about 10 rows back. Two rows behind him was Doc Rivers (former NBA player and coach). Also sitting quite close to me was Bo Ryan (Wisconsin), John Calipari (Memphis), and Steve Alford. Tim Robbins, a diehard UCLA supporter, sat within speaking distance. Last but not least was Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) and his wife Juli, who sat three seats to my right. Honestly, I’m not sure who’s more of a celebrity between the two of them.
During timeouts, I found myself quite star-struck, standing up to scan the rows of faces all around me, looking for the next famous smile. It really was almost as fun as watching basketball. As I was caught up in the hoops hysteria, a C.S. Lewis quotation flashed across my mind.
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit–immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of the kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously–no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinners–no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat, the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.
There are no ordinary people. If we were to really see deep inside the soul of the man who takes our money at the concession stand or the girl with the yellow “Event Staff” jacket who stands to check my ticket, we would be tempted to worship. They are made in the image of God. We already worship people, but only certain ones. The people listed in the beginning are worshiped by ESPN viewers on a weekly basis, especially from the months of October to March. It’s madness, not March, but the power we give people. I was star-struck, but it both lessened and increased as I talked to the man next to me. Steve is in the barbeque business and he likes to ride motorcycles. He hopes Florida will win the national title (please pray for him). I realized C.S. Lewis is right, and it should affect the way I view, judge, and dismiss people.
Kristi McLelland sat four rows behind me. You probably don’t know her. Neither did 55,000 others at the Georgia Dome Saturday night. But if they did, they would have pointed at her with greater excitement than I looked at Jim Boeheim, Tom Izzo, and John Calipari. Kristi writes and disciples. She is a woman in whom the Spirit of God dwells. She knows the Word deeply and affects the lives of many people in her church. God uses her mightily and she reflects his image fiercely.
I had tickets to Monday’s championship game, but I can’t make it. Instead I am going to listen to the stories of some of my friends. Our time may not be broadcasted on CBS, but I will be in the midst of glorious immortals. Together we will journey, to enter into each other’s “immortal horrors” and “everlasting splendors,” hoping to find and see God better. And, hard as it might be to grasp, it will surpass experiencing One Shining Moment.