Thursday, March 11, 2010

An open letter to Marion Jones,

Dear Marion,

I read on Yahoo Sports this morning that you signed a contract to play for the WNBA's Tulsa Shock. Good for you.

We all make mistakes. And while there are plenty of people who are quick to pile on with phrases like, "We're all under pressure, but we don't all take performance enhancing drugs," I'm not one of them. None of us can understand the stress, the weight that led to your taking PEDs. I've not walked a mile in your shoes, and God knows that there are plenty of reasons why you and many others could point an accusing finger at me.

I taught our congregation last week that "God deals in paragraphs, not periods."

It is human nature, I suppose, that causes us to punctuate people's lives with one final, and seemingly irrevocable period. With a what-have-you-done-lately attitude, we assess one's most recent failure or media-exploited blunder and assign to them an undeserved finality.

God doesn't do that.

If he did, Moses' life would have ended, "Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand." If God punctuated solely with periods, King David's biography would have concluded with the Prophet Nathan telling David, "You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites."

But God deals in paragraphs. And, unlike periods, paragraphs signify the beginning of something rather than the end.

Because of God's predilection toward paragraphs, Moses led the children of Israel to freedom. David became known as a man after God's own heart. (Leading, I might add, to big things for Cecil B. DeMille and Michelangelo.)

And because of that, Marion, you, too, can make a new start.

There will be plenty of people who will insist on reminding you of your previous errors in judgment. They are the same small, petty people that sit on the sidelines of life offering unsolicited criticisms. They're the people that choose the longer line at the grocery checkout so they can peruse the covers of gossip magazines and wag their fingers at the others' mistakes. They're the same people who, with barely disguised smugness, smirk as they gawk at Tiger Woods on the cover of People Magazine.

Ignore them, Marion, and remember that God deals in paragraphs and not periods.

And because of that, the last chapter in your story - and perhaps the best - is just beginning.