Three years ago this week I joined the Uttermost Sports staff in Norman, Oklahoma. As a native Texan, I failed to take into account that when you gain residency in Oklahoma, it becomes obligatory under state law to cheer for Oklahoma’s lone professional team – the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.

My fandom started casually enough, I appreciated KD and Russ’ talent and after several deep playoff runs my interest in the team was solidified. Today, per my usual routine, I was driving to work listening to sports radio; and I heard a clip of Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams that absolutely stunned me. Coach Williams didn’t comment on free throw percentages or upcoming road games or injury reports. The audio that I found so captivating didn’t even involve basketball.

The audio was from Monty Williams’ wife’s funeral. Ingrid Williams died in a car accident last week leaving behind 5 young kids. Coach Williams delivered a brief eulogy for his late wife in front of a crowd largely composed of Thunder team members and support staff. Coach Williams was composed, brave and gracious in what assuredly was one of the most raw and painful moments of his life.

He spoke of God’s faithfulness to work all things together for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28). He had the maturity and self-awareness to offer sympathy and forgiveness for the family of the driver in the accident who was at fault. It was abundantly clear that Coach Williams was operating with a power and a perspective that superseded grief, confusion and fear. More amazing still, was the response of the sports commentators – who simply didn’t have categories to process how the Gospel creates peace in the midst of sorrow.

As I sat in the parking lot, fighting back tears, it occurred to me (again) how the Lord uses sports (or more accurately – relationships built as a result of sports) to bring people together. Sports is not the hero of this story, Jesus is. Sports is simply the funnel that filtered a group of people into a room to witness the Gospel overwhelm sadness.

A grieving man’s seven-minute eulogy is not a strategy or a method or a system. It is simply a public overflow of a personal conviction in the context of relationship. The  Kingdom of Heaven – be it in Oklahoma City or Kabul, Afghanistan will be advanced by people with the same powerful convictions scattering all over the world – ready to give an account of their faith when the weight of this fallen world touches us all.

May it be so.

http://www.nba.com/thunder/video/wordofthanks_williams_160218

Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

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