“Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have,” – 2 Corinthians 8:11-12, NIV
Tonight brought about another one of those “What am I doing with my life?” moments. Only hours after I had finished a long day at work, which capped off a rather exhausting work week, I sat down with my roommate Mikey to watch one of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentaries, Without Bias.
Most people my age know all about Michael Jordan and have at least heard of Larry Bird. But what about Len Bias? Does that ring any bells? Until tonight, I had no idea who he was, but apparently he was a pretty big deal. He competed with Michael Jordan face to face in college. And beat him. What he is most famous for, though, happened the day after he was drafted as the overall number 2 pick in the 1986 NBA Draft to the Boston Celtics.
Celebrating the dawning of his professional career (and a brand new endorsement from Reebok), he and some friends were drinking in their apartment. Not long after the drinking started, cocaine was presented to him and his friends and they started snorting it. Minutes later, Bias started having seizures and was soon rushed to the hospital. Early the next morning, he was pronounced dead.
Flowers were first delivered to the funeral by Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, which seems to indicate that great athletes know their own; Len Bias would have been one of them. But there was something else that stood out to me beyond Michael and Larry’s response; something that was repeated throughout the documentary, from different people and in their own words.
“Dream come true.”
No, dying from a cocaine overdose (one snort of pure cocaine with no alcohol in his system – apparently he had not been drinking that night) was not the dream come true. What his former college and high school teammates and coaches – and even the guy who would have been his next coach, Red Auerbach – kept saying about Len Bias was that he was a kid who, on the night of the draft, was so ecstatic because he had accomplished his goals. In high school he told his teammates he was going pro. Some four years later, he proved it.
Len Bias’ story to me isn’t only one of heart-wrenching tragedy; it’s a story of how crucial it is to set your goals in life high – much higher than everyone else around you. As the verse at the start of this post indicates, it’s not just a worldly belief that tells me this. It’s a Godly thing. It’s a Godly thing to harness your energy and focus to cultivate your gifts and talents for something greater than your own rewards – something greater than your own gain. Even if you fail. Even if you work day in and day out for almost 20 years of your life for that one goal and die a day after you reach it.
God doesn’t care so much for titles and fame. He cares for the pursuit. It pleases God to see His creation striving for something beyond monetary gain or worldly accolade. It pleases Him when He gives His servants varying amounts of talents and they set out to do something with it. They set out to make good of what they’ve been given.
“[Success is the] peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable.” – John Wooden.
With Wooden’s (one of the greatest college basketball coaches – UCLA) definition in mind, it’s apparent to me that Len Bias died a successful man. How he died – despite its overwhelming depth of tragedy – is proof enough to his success. He died in celebration. He died knowing that what he had set out to do years before was accomplished. He did it. It was done. And moments later, he was gone.
Paul urged the Corinthians to finish what they started so that their desire could prove fruitful. What I find most important in the quoted passage above is verse 12; “For if the willingness if there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” In other words, desire makes or breaks success.
What do you desire to do? Have you done much to cultivate that desire? Can you say that you are giving your all to see your dream through? I’m not really asking you, though; I’m asking myself. I desire to be a published author – be it a magazine, newspaper, or (as I hope) book. I write a blog to cultivate that desire – somewhat. But I know that I am not giving my all. I know that I am not making the effort to do the best of which I am capable.
I don’t write all this to beat myself up; just to straighten myself out. Like I said, it’s a “What am I doing with my life?” moment; it’s a self evaluation intended to redirect one to the proper course of one’s life. As Paul says later on in 2 Corinthians, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves,” 13:5, NRSV. It isn’t so that we become depressed about what we haven’t accomplished; it’s so that we are able to make sure that no moment in our lives is wasted. It’s to make sure we are striving for that which we set out to do – even if we’ve already failed at it.
To many, Len Bias’ story is one of “what not to do”; don’t do drugs, kids. To me, though, it’s a story of what to do; find your dream, find your passion, find your desire, and achieve it. Giving the effort to do the best of which you are capable is what God wants.