And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. —Romans 8:28-30
The sudden and accidental death of former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant at the age of 41 has been remarkably personal to a lot of different people. Not only those who actually knew him, or at least met him at some point, have been sharing stories about how convicted he was as a basketball player, a businessman and, perhaps most notably, a father.
But even those who only occasionally marveled at him from afar seem to have been punched in the gut, searching for and sharing information about Bryant on social media as if there is a certain holiness to be found in such engagement.
And they would be right.
Just listen to the lost wanderings of middle-aged men on sports radio right now and you know exactly what is going on here. The existential non-sequiturs that normally dominate so much of our daily noise was brutally swept off the table by the news of Bryant’s sad end. It made us feel vulnerable and uncertain. It made us feel fragile and lost.
And thank God for that. Because that’s called being alive.
Perhaps more than any other time in human history, our various passionate distractions are constantly turned up to 11 to prevent us from having any relationship whatsoever with such feelings. Humility may be spoken of as a virtue, but in practice it is viewed as weakness. There is no dialog. There is no listening. There is no searching. It’s all shouting. Demanding. Cornering life into a place where it bends to each and every whim you have.
That’s the stuff of the zombie apocalypse. Well-dressed zombies to be sure, but zombies nonetheless. Like the Don Lemon trio that recently received so much attention for their cruel condescension directed at Trump voters. That was less about political bias than it was about the shabby quality of their general state of consciousness. Elitism from the right and the left was included yet it was the same brash nothingness, totally empty of genuine meaning or worthy purpose.
We are all addicted to it on some level. As with the increasing complexity of cellphone technology, it goes hand in hand with the decreasing stamina of our attention spans to other matters. It never gives us permission to hit the pause button to dig deeper. Just more, more, more. And the more we get, we find we don’t even want to hit the pause button any more. Because who knows what we’d find there? Not the comfort and ease we’ve become accustomed to. Not the strawmen we love to burn to the ground. Not the shallow pools we like wallow in while pretending we are actually championship swimmers.
It’s the sort of con that marks the time these days for rich and poor alike. Until Kobe Bryant dies. A real life superhero of sorts, who is supposed to take our mind off mortality. Then we’re reminded of it in the most startling of ways.
Just a man being a dad to his daughter, taken away for no damn good reason whatsoever. So is that it? Is the meaning of all really that random? That meaningless? It can’t be, we insist. And for the first time in who knows how long, our souls cry out and we demand more.
Good. You’re uncomfortable. You should be.
Now stay there for a while and watch the miracles happen.