Thursday, February 16, 2012

Life Without Limits: Jeremy Lin and the Renewal of Faith

Without basketball, I would not be a Christian. Back when I was a raving skeptic of all things religious (I’m only a skeptic now, not raving), the only reason I went to Church as a self-proclaimed non-believer was to play good team pickup basketball with Pastor David Kim (an excellent point guard) and the other folks at The Garden. They were my first introduction to smart, passionate, articulate believers of Christ who didn’t seem to be “bat-shit crazy” (up to that point, my near-allergic exposure to Christianity had only been with the often-hypocritical, homophobic, bigoted, anti-science version pushed by “the Far Right”). What impressed me the most, though, was the joy, passion, and fearlessness with which the people I met pursued, and embraced, life. After months of hooping it up with them, I started to ask a bit more about Christianity to see how I could have some of that light in my life.

I see that same joy, passion, and fearlessness every time Jeremy Lin steps on the court in a Knicks uniform. It’s a radical difference in attitude. Yes, the talent was always there, but the attitude was not (just look at any of his minutes with the Warriors - he always looked a bit lost). In his interview with the Mercury News, Jeremy admits as much saying, “[with the Warriors] I was on pins and needles. I was putting all this unnecessary pressure on myself. Now, I feel like I’m free out there.” It shows. Unfortunately for me, six years after being baptized, I haven’t found that joy and freedom, but even worse - I stopped looking for it. Yes, I still go to church, I still participate in small groups, and I still play basketball with the guys at Cornerstone, but somewhere along the way I accepted the fact that perhaps the “joy and freedom” just wasn’t meant for me (unrelated aside - Pastor Joe Yoshihara is an excellent point guard as well - hmm something about point guards being successful pastors, perhaps? May point to great things for Jeremy after his NBA career).

Then, Jeremy Lin has a career game against the New Jersey Nets and craziness ensues (no puns for me, with a last name of Chu, I’m a bit allergic to name-based puns). I watch every game after because I’m psyched to see someone with so much in common with me get the opportunity to succeed: Harvard, asian-american, and a love of basketball. I am not watching because I am Christian.

After the winning streak goes to four, I start getting a tingling sensation that perhaps this may be just a bit more than just basketball. After the wins in Minnesota and Toronto, it’s pretty clear, this guy is just different now. He plays with a confidence and composure that seems unreal. When he says, “...I believe in an all-powerful and all-knowing God who does miracles.” It’s clear that he believes it 100%, but more importantly it shows in his play as well as the play of his teammates. I’m back to seeing that “joy and freedom” clear as day again, and am once again left wondering, “How do I live my life like that? With trust in God and without limits?”.

What would my life be like if I could really trust God fully and live my life without limits?

I can’t help shake the belief that perhaps this is why Jeremy is playing so well. Is it crazy to think that an all-powerful, all-knowing God would elevate a single basketball player to a place of insane exposure simply to provide those struggling with their faith a reason to believe? Yes. Is a God that does all this to inspire His people to understand the potential of living a life of faith, without fear, one that I want to believe in? Absolutely.

Only a higher power would know that the juxtaposition of basketball and religion was the one sure way to renew my interest in faith. Work? nope. Science? nope. Politics? no friggin’ way. Basketball? Heck, Yes!

Am I there yet? Of course not. As Jeremy’s pastor says in the article, “It was hard. I could make him no promises. To trust what God is doing is definitely a lesson that Jeremy is continuing to learn and not to trust in his results.” Can I proudly stand in public and boldy declare that “I am a believer in Christ”? Nope, not yet. Am I back in the game trying to figure out how to get there?


Chalk one more assist to Jeremy Lin.