Russ and I have been watching the documentary on Michael Jordan, The Last Dance, on Sunday evenings.
When he first mentioned the series, I had trouble imagining how they were going to fill that many hours with information from his career, but it seems the NBA was rather busy behind the scenes back in the day.
I must have been oblivious.
All I knew was our kids loved him and he literally could fly.
All these years later as we watch him soar through the air and remain suspended for several seconds, I struggle to think of any players who have ever made the sport look more fun or more graceful.
As the filming moves from interviews with current Michael and others from that era to clips of games and the team and news reports, it is a sharp contrast to see young Michael and the man he is today.
This past week, the program centered on the whole “I want to be like Mike” advertising campaign.
I can’t say I would have remembered, but it all came back to me as I watched flocks of young people gather around him. From commercials to public streets to pre and post game, he is surrounded by adoring fans.
I remember our kiddos and their friends all sporting #23 and he certainly inspired a generation of hoopsters in our neck of the woods. To go to a Bull’s game was about on par with Disney.
It was a world wide love affair, yet at some point this stopped selling air time, I guess. Or someone was tired of him and so an author went after him to try and discern his real character.
This led to others using a microscope to examine all of his activities and thoughts and words and actions.
Michael fell short of the image that had been created by a public that is always hungry for a hero, and rather than defend himself, it would seem he just wanted to be left alone.
Flash forward to current Mike, sitting in an artistically created living room with a drink at his elbow and a bit of a hard edge and he wistfully expresses how he would have liked to have never been held up as a role model.
It created a place where he had to perform to meet all expectations and since that is not humanly possible, he ended up having his character and personhood examined and exposed as not meeting expectations.
We could perhaps sarcastically say, poor Mike…bet he cried all the way to the bank…but we would miss such an important lesson.
Human nature is always looking for some kind of god we can understand and manage.
We do it in our culture all the time, creating heroes and then when we tire of them, gleefully tearing them down and moving on.
One of the things I have noticed as I am reading through the collection of accounts of the Kings of Israel and Judah found in 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles is that we are a mixed bag and God is not undone by us.
There were evil kings and good kings and yet sometimes the evil ones repented and God extended mercy. Often the good kings didn’t fully do all that they should have done and yet God was with them.
It would seem that we humans tend to pass sentence in black and white far more quickly than the God who created us.
With our limited thinking and our limited understanding we deem someone as worthy or unworthy based on our assessment and values.
I realize I cannot stop our culture from building elaborate pedestals for their hero of the day and then, in some bizarre shift, gathering to knock them down…but I can guard my own heart from trying to find my salvation and deliverance and joy in another person.
It is too much to ask of a human to be perfect so that I can have someone to look up to.
It is too much to ask of myself to allow anyone to convince me that I am going to fill that role for them.
Often in the testimonies of the Kings of Judah and Israel who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord was that they still failed to remove the high places…the places of worship that had once been dedicated to idols.
Maybe the people were now worshiping God there, but it was not where they were supposed to be.
As followers of Christ, it is imperative that we are very careful about where we offer praise and worship.
It is a fine line between love and appreciation of others, and lifting them up to an exalted place from which they, like us, will surely one day fall off.
It is a mistake to take something that is almost good and right and true and lift it to the position that only God can hold.
Only God deserves our adoration and praise. He is the only hero of our story. The rest of us are just works in progress. Imperfect and a mixed bag of holy and messy…but always loved perfectly by our God <3