When I was a kid, my greatest ambition was to meet Michael Jordan. I was a nine-year-old North Carolinian when he hit the game-winning shot against Georgetown to secure the second national championship for the University of North Carolina. From that point on, “Air Jordan” became more than just my favorite basketball player: he was my role model. I wanted to be like Mike.
I was convinced that if I worked hard enough I could play just like him. So, my friends and I lowered our basketball goals to seven feet and spent endless hours perfecting our split-legged, tongue-extended dunks. Those dunks felt so “right” when I was doing them, but when I watched the videos later, they just didn’t quite look like his. And when I watch those videos now, all I can think is, “Lord Jesus, what was wrong with me?” I look more like a wounded duck coming in for a crash landing than an athlete soaring over the competition.
You can imagine how excited I was when, during my eighth-grade year, I found out that Air Jordan was going to participate in a charity golf tournament not far from my house. I couldn’t care less about golf, and I had no clue what charity we were supporting, but my best friend and I set out early that morning for the tournament with only one agenda: to meet the man, the myth, the legend himself. For eight hours, we followed his caravan around the course.
We never even got close. His bouncers clearly had experience with people like us.
That is, until the very end of the day. I was standing, discouraged, near the golf course exit waiting for my parents to pick me up. That’s when I saw it: a purple Porsche Carrera 944, winding its way down the road toward the exit. I knew it immediately: Michael.
With all the discretion and poise you would expect from a thirteen-year-old, I turned around and yelled to my friend, “It’s HIM! It’s Jordan!” A couple dozen people heard me and ran over to where I was standing. As Jordan approached, he slowed down his car and rolled down his window, apparently looking for someone. My best friend saw his opportunity. Before I knew what was happening, he grabbed my shoulders and shoved me in through Jordan’s passenger window.
There I was, less than three inches from the face of the man I had idolized for the past five years. I was so close I could have licked him (and one of my lifelong regrets is that I did not). I nervously sputtered out, “Hi, Mike.” The six-foot-six megastar cut a sideways glance at me and said, “Dude, get out of my car.” I pulled my head out, turned to the crowd, put my hands up in the air, and yelled, “He talked to me! He talked to me!”
Being in the presence of greatness has a strange effect on us. We feel a curious mixture of desire and terror. We’re not sure whether we want to draw close or run away.
If being in the presence of human greatness makes us feel that way, what is it like to be in the presence of infinite greatness? If I was that starstruck in the presence of someone whose glory consisted of the fact that he could jump thirty-six inches higher than me, what is it like to find yourself in the presence of the One who spoke the universe into existence?
J. D. Greear and David Jeremiah, Not God Enough: Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018).
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