I love being alone in a big crowd. I'm writing from one of my favorite spots in the city of Houston, the Compaq Center, watching my former world champion Houston Rockets. There are seven minutes to go in the fourth period. I just sat down for the game. I can't afford to buy tickets, so I just come for the last quarter. Tonight it helps me block out the reality that everything we own is smoke-damaged and our lives are in complete chaos. The help from our community has been touching. We have 100 offers for a place to stay and meals for the near future. It's great to be cared for, but for the last part of the fourth period I'm just going to ponder Kelvin Cato's shot-blocking ability, which is substantial, and Olajuwon's propensity to make a complete comeback, which is unlikely even in Clutch City. I live only a few minutes from the stadium and I love to do anything that is free. Wow! Steve Francis just set up Cutino Mobley for an alleyoop dunk that stirred my soul (by the way, the Rockets are up on the Hornets by 10). Basketball is a spiritual experience surpassed only by God's greatest gift … baseball.
Today has been a day full of meetings and conversations with all kinds of people including the insurance adjuster. My job is about people, helping them move closer to the "One True God." That means it is not about institutions, bureaucracy, or maintaining programs. Just people. I say all that to tell you it can be exhausting to be with people each minute of this day. Whether by e-mail, phone, counseling appointment, or everyday event I follow my calling as a pastor. When I get my hair cut, my oil changed, or go to the movies, people either recognize me or my vocation comes up in conversation and all normal interactions are suspended. Most reactions to clergy fall in three categories: Counsel ("I have a question I've been wanting to ask someone …"), Confession ("Pastor, we need to talk …"), or Evasion ("Sorry, Rev., I shouldn't say 'shit' in front of you"). The Evasive response is the one that is most troubling to me. It assumes that I am sitting in a place capable of judging. Christianity is about forgiveness and not accusation. I am the last person to be shocked when you say "shit" or "damn." I deal with people on a daily basis whose lives are often falling apart, including my own. Of course, we did a lot of stupid things to get to the place where we are. But these are the kinds of people and events that fill the pages of scripture. From Abraham, who pimps out his wife to the king of Egypt for a lot of cash, to Peter, the bigot who excluded non-Jews. The Bible says to us, "Judge not, or you will be judged." The Christian Coalition may be lobbying the Gideons to take that verse out of the latest edition, but for now it is still there. Blaise Pascal puts it this way, "There are two kinds of people: the righteous who think they are sinners and the sinners who think they are righteous."
The Rockets win, and the post-game interview with our rookie phenom wraps up. The event staff is telling me nicely to get another place to work on my computer. I'm inspired here, but I do as I'm told. As I walk out of the stadium, I pass a guy I went to college with. His name is David Wesley, a guard for the Hornets. He played well tonight, but he was not the enthusiastic player I watched play at Baylor. You see, David lost his best friend and teammate Bobby Phills in a car wreck recently. He was racing Bobby at the time of the accident. Both were in Porsches that were modified to exceed speeds of 170 mph. There is even speculation about holding David legally responsible for Bobby's death. It seems a dark cloud is hanging over him. I doubt he recognized me, but I wanted to let him know we are praying for him and hurting with him. I uttered, "Hang in there, Dave, we are praying for you and mourning with you," and he replied with a softspoken, "Thank you, thanks a lot."
I'm a believer in Justice. I just wonder how we are going to define it. David Wesley looks like a model citizen compared with Abraham. I for one am not prepared to sit in judgment.