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Grieving, but with Hope

1/30/20 | Weekly Pastor's Email | by Eric Wakeling

    Dear Calvary Family,

    All three of our phones started buzzing with texts while Ben Harris, Trevor Brown and I were recording an episode of the Calvary Life Podcast last Sunday. By the way, Trevor just won a Grammy that night as a music producer! We are all so happy for him. 

    But all those texts were coming through because news was just coming out that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash. We hadn't heard yet that his daughter Gigi and seven others were also lost in that horrific crash. 

    I don't tend to be a person that gets overly caught up in the lives of celebrities, but this really got me for some reason. I've noticed that Kobe's death has impacted a lot of people in significant ways beyond other moments like this. Let me start by saying that it's important to grieve in these moments. It's not fake or silly or somehow not our place. It's not wrong because there were other people in the helicopter, too. We can grieve whatever brings us grief. Kobe Bryant's death impacted so many people deeply. 

    I believe there's a few reasons for that:

    1. The first and most obvious reason is that he is one of the greatest basketball players of all time and won five championships with our home team, the Los Angeles Lakers. We love the way Kobe worked so hard to bring championships and glory to our team. His work ethic is legendary and has inspired a "mamba mentality" beyond basketball into any area of life. We love a winner. 

    2. The fact that he was with his daughter, Gigi, at the time of the crash. I was so fascinated with Kobe's life that I've actually followed both Kobe and his wife, Vanessa, on Instagram for years. I've watched the way he cared for his family and loved his daughters. I know that this second act of his life was completely committed to his family and as a #girldad myself it was inspiring to see him fully commit to being present with them. The reason he even owned a helicopter was to not spend so much time away from his family. I can't help but think of being in that helicopter with my daughter, Ella, who is almost 13 like Gigi, and holding her as we know we are about to crash. Those moments must have been so terrifying and filled with so much love for one another as they went down. That scene is what I can't get out of my mind. That moment where it is absolutely known that life is just the vapor that we hear about so much in the scriptures. This is why we are so affected by the story of Kobe Bryant. 

    3. The final reason is the redemptive story arc of his life. Kobe's life wasn't perfect. None of us really know what happened, but Kobe was accused of rape, the charges were dropped, and he settled the matter in civil court. There are countless stories of women not being heard and countless stories of black men being accused of crimes they didn't commit. I don't know what happened. But I do know that Kobe was far off the straight and narrow at that time of his life. He very publicly apologized to his wife, sought forgiveness and then committed himself to his family. From then on, we see a changed man. We know that Kobe attended a Catholic mass the morning of his death. My hope and prayer is that he had a genuine faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. 

    Kobe's story resonates because even though his talent is beyond almost all of us, his story is so relatable. He is a sinner who sought forgiveness and then the storyline of his life changed. He gave everything he had to basketball, but was somehow able to give everything he had to his family. That storyline of success in both career and family is a dream we all have for our lives. 

    Be inspired by Kobe's work ethic for career and family, but don't stop there. Just add one more dimension that maybe Kobe was just discovering - the Kingdom of God. Get a mamba mentality for the Kingdom of God. Get a reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit that takes you beyond the impossible achievements of Kobe Bryant, one that takes you to what Ephesians 3:20 calls "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." 

    And I close by just saying that I grieve with you - over your loss of loved ones, over your loss of shattered dreams and over the loss of Kobe Bryant. I pray you experience God's hope and comfort today. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. 


    May the Lord bless you and keep you,
    Pastor Eric Wakeling