The first time I ever watched a televised basketball game just so happens to have been during Michael Jordan’s final playoff run in 1998. They were playing the Indiana Pacers in the Conference Finals. My dad loved to watch him and every commercial idolized him. Most importantly, I knew him as the awesome guy from Space Jam (Daffy Duck’s acting in that movie was impeccable, if I may add).
This past week ESPN and the NBA paid homage to Jordan for his 50th birthday. ESPN senior writer, Wright Thompson, actually had the pleasure of spending five weeks alongside MJ for an up close and personal documentary on him. Wright spent practically every hour with Michael during this time with the goal of reporting just how Michael is dealing with his life today, post-basketball.
Besides the fact that Michael has:
1) A Private jet painted to mimic a basketball sneaker,
2) Extravagant houses in multiple cites around America,
3) Ownership over the Charlotte Bobcats’ NBA franchise,
4) Golfing excursions with the likes of Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton,
5) Been idolized by every single sports superstar, from David Beckham to Cam Newton,
6) A larger sports legacy than any other athlete to date,
7) Wealth and prosperity,
8) A beautiful fiancé,
9) A continual dominant presence in the NBA without even physically playing,
10) A life and career that a majority of the people in the world would love to exchange for.
…Besides all of this, at the end of this five weeks Wright Thompson found that Michael Jordan was very unhappy and discontented with life beyond basketball. Turns out that Jordan still desperately yearns for the opportunity to suit back up and play ball again. He has constant fears that he’ll be forgotten in the wind by the next generation. His daily routines consist of him habitually staying busy and active so that he doesn’t have long stints of silence or boredom. He is now somewhat a prisoner of his own life. Wright’s entire article has an extremely close parallel with what King Solomon experienced and wrote in his mental reflection on his life in the book of Ecclesiastes.
King Solomon did everything in life far better than any of us can imagine, let alone achieve. He went through a life-long experiment to see if he could find full satisfaction without God (Ecclesiastes 1). He ruled nations with peace and without war in both Judah and Israel. His wisdom was beyond measure. He was the wealthiest king that has ever lived. He was more handsome and prettier than us. He had self-made national forests, vineyards, mansions, and massive pools built for himself. He had slaves for his slaves. He knew about both botany and ethology. He routinely threw epic parties for thousands of people that included 40,000 horses, deer, gazelles, cattle and the finest wine. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. (1 Kings 4-6, Ecclesiastes 2-3, 2 Chronicles 9:23, Psalm 45:2).
After years of testing everything that he could, including wealth, power, friendship, work, knowledge, and pleasure……Solomon found that it was all meaningless. He ran into diminishing returns when it came to enjoyment and found that there is nothing worth its full salt without God being the main component in the picture.
The reason why Solomon’s test failed and MJ is not satisfied is that when sin entered the world, WE all exchanged our infinite creator God for his creation. When this took place we began to settle for temporary, fleeting pleasure rather than what our soul really needs for satisfaction (Genesis 3, Romans 1). Solomon concludes that Michael is weird to think that what he needs to finally be happy is more of what he already has. I mean come on….is another championship ring and million dollars really going to satisfy him? He already has six rings and a sports legacy that no other human may ever top. Solomon’s point is that we should enjoy life and enjoy it deeply, but not to forget about God in this small window of our lives.
King Solomon’s mental outlook is a foreshadowing of what Jesus says in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4).
To paraphrase, Jesus tells her “Trust me, come to me and you will never thirst again. Trust me. Do not outlook this opportunity…I’ve got what you have been missing.”
See, only a true believer in Christ can understand the joyful realization of the provision that God has over our lives. With the Gospel in view, we begin to see life just how God intended for it to be seen…without discontentment or regrets of redoing the past.