"I'm wide awake...."
I never thought I would quote Katy Perry, but I just did. Although those three words address the experience of the singer-songwriter's divorce, the sentiment looms larger. Events happen in our life--both chosen and unchosen that alter our worldview. These watershed moments give us pause whereby we never see life in quite the same way. We feel alert--wide awake. It's amazing to me just how often said experiences occur within the context of sport.
Jason Collins first started thinking about coming out (publicly) during the 2011 NBA lockout. In the exclusive report from Sports Illustrated he said "I'm a creature of habit. When the regular season ends I immediately dedicate myself to getting my game ready for the opener of the next campaign in the fall. But the lockout wreaked havoc on my habits and forced me to confront who I really am and what I really want. With the season delayed, I trained and worked out. But I lacked the distraction that basketball had always provided."
Too many of us know how work can distract us from tending to what really matters--our relationships with God, family, friends and even ourself. When life slows down--be it on a retreat, during the summer months, or maybe a sabbatical, we are afforded some space to take the long look.
That gift of time may serve as the seedbed for what needs to take root and grow, yet it doesn't necessarily flower or bear fruit. As so beautifully articulated in his book Tattoos on the Heart: The power of boundless compassion, Greg Boyle writes "it takes what it takes." Too often and for too many of us, what it takes is a jolt, a crash or confrontation. For Collins it was the events on Patriot's Day 2013.
He wrote "The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?"
He asks an important question; one that we all confront at different times and ages in our own lives. Living truthfully takes courage, it requires self awareness and it mandates humility. Living the truth may force us to understand our limitations but also our great gifts. To live truthfully means to live in the light and that is exactly who Jesus is--the Light of the World.
At lunch last week a colleague told me about a summer vacation to visit her family who live in Arizona, very close to the border of Mexico. She was with her two sons playing golf; everyone was cranky and annoyed with one another. Just as she was about to threaten to end play if their attitudes didn't shape up two men came running through the course disoriented and begging for water.
They had made a long journey and needed to get to Phoenix. My coworker realized these men wouldn't make it that far unless they had medical attention. A watershed moment, she and her sons did what they could to help these human beings. Her sons were shaken. Their crankiness was long forgotten, their problems were minuscule. The golf course was now a place where they confronted the social justice issue of Immigration in a new way.
And the finish line of the Boston marathon forced millions of Americans to confront hard questions and real truths. Perhaps one good to come out of that tragedy is that it gave people the impetus to live more truthfully. And, to remain "wide awake."
Jason Collins SI