I would have chosen Kanter. For those of you curiously unaware to what I am talking about, allow me to explain. Enes Kanter was going to propel my beloved Kentucky Wildcats to the Final Four. The Turkish big man was going to give the Cats an inside threat that few college teams could contain or match-up against. But he never set foot on the court. The NCAA deemed him permanently ineligible due to the fact that his family had received $33,000 from a professional team in Turkey. To the NCAA, Kanter was a professional. His amateurism had been compromised. When the news broke in the Bluegrass State, Final Four expectations were tempered. Everyone knew that our front-line was too thin. Frankly, we didn’t think much of our chances with Josh Harrellson as main weapon down low. Sure, we had other talented freshman, but our weakness was the man on the block. The one we affectionately call “Jorts“. We loved Josh, but we never expected him to do what we knew Kanter could have done for us. If it came down to me, choosing Kanter or Harrellson, I would have chosen Kanter. Because if you told me in November, that in the Sweet 16, our best chance for beating the best team in the tournament rested on the broad shoulders of Jorts, I would of said that we will not have a chance. I’m glad it didn’t come down to me. The story I would have wrote can’t compare to the story we are witnessing before our eyes.
In case you don’t care much for sports, a really big game was played last night. My beloved Wildcats sent the best team in the tournament packing. In probably one of the most exciting college basketball games I can remember watching, the Cats beat the Buckeyes 62-60. Number One is done. And although it was one of our star freshman, Brandon Knight, who hit the winning shot, it was because of Jorts that we won that game. He took on one of the best big men in the country and held his own. He also added 17 points and 10 rebounds. His performance will go down in Kentucky basketball lore. But the story hasn’t ended yet. There is still, at least, one more game to be played. There is more drama to unfold. I cannot wait for the game on Sunday night against the North Carolina Tar Heels.
As I was pondering the fact that I would not have chosen to write this story for the Wildcats, I could not help but think about another story that I would not have written. Right now, we are in the middle of Lent. Each day brings us closer to the grand celebration of the resurrection Jesus Christ. The Story that God has written in the Gospel is the very story that I would have never written for myself or the world. I never would have chosen for the Savior to be born in a rank stable. I never would have chosen 15 years of menial labor as a carpenter. I never would have chosen three years of itinerant teaching without a place for the Savior to call home. I never would have chosen to have him killed at the hands of evil men, appearing to be defeated. The story that we find in the Gospel is not the story that we would have written. No one would have written it in this way. Yet, how grateful are we that we didn’t get our way? What would have happened if we had written on our own story? Would it not have ended badly for us? Would we not have been given over to the lusts of our hearts, drowning in idolatry? Would not our own story ended in our destruction? The truth is, yes. If we have the power to write our own story, we will destroy ourselves.
From the very beginning, Man was meant to live in the story God was telling. Yet, God’s story never looks like the way we would do it. A Tree from which we cannot eat? “Did God say you would really die?” The moment our First Parents ate of the forbidden fruit is the moment Man has tried to write his own story. God’s story was rejected. We decided that we were god enough to write our own story. And when our stories were thwarted and disrupted, we questioned and grumbled. We rebelled. We aligned ourselves with the wilderness generation, with the prince of the power of the air. Praise be to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who has rescued us from this propensity to write our story, to define our own good. Thank God for the Gospel. The joy is deep, the hope, eternal. For it is a far superior story than I could have ever written for myself. Thank God it wasn’t up to me or up to you.
Even if the Cats fail to reach the Final Four, this will be one unforgettable season. It will be unforgettable for all the right reasons. It will be especially unforgettable for me, because it has given me a glimpse of the Gospel. It has proved to me, once again, that my own ideas about what is best are flat wrong 99% of the time (even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while :)). I would have chosen Kanter. And I would have missed out on one of the greatest stories in Kentucky basketball history. Go get ’em Jorts!