Divine Collisions


The following is an exclusive excerpt from Why I Stand, by Jonathan Isaac, available now.

I met the man who would champion my faith investigation—and challenge the part of me that was getting in the way—while I was injured, in the beginning of my rookie year. One day as I waited for the elevator in the lobby of my apartment, a man with a thick Bahamian accent stopped me and said, “I know how you can be great.”

I I thought it was an odd thing to say. I could tell he didn’t know who I was just by his remark.

“Tell me.”

Without missing beat, he continued, “You have to know Jesus.”

I groaned on the inside. Was this really happening? It felt like when you’ve just let your guard down with someone and then they immediately try to sell you something. Like a multivitamin or an essential oil that has changed their life. If it was Jesus this guy was selling, thankfully I could stop him right there.

“Yeah, I’m a Christian, so…” my voice trailed off hoping that’s all he needed to hear. Keep it moving, buddy. The guy kept talking. He introduced himself as Doc, and he lived in the building. We parted ways after the short elevator ride, and I didn’t give our fleeting conversation a second thought.

But I started seeing him more and more. We passed each other in the parking garage, in the lobby. “Let me take you to lunch,” he’d offer, but I’d dodge the question by mumbling an excuse.

What does he want from me? I’d think to myself. My defenses would get higher each time we’d pass, out of fear of being taken advantage of. Yet, running into him so often made me wonder. The next unplanned rendezvous finally prompted me to tell him, “If I see you again, I’ll go to lunch with you.”

I did, and off we went. Doc and I casually chatted about basketball. By then he knew what I did for a living, though I didn’t know what he did. As we talked about God, I remember chewing on my sandwich and telling him, “I don’t like pastors. They’re hypocrites who just want your money.” This, of course, coming from the same person who declared he was a Christian. Doc didn’t say much in response. We continued sharing where we each were from and got to know a bit about each other. And that was that. Minutes after I left the restaurant, I tapped on his contact in my phone and swiped left. Didn’t see him around for a while.

Still nursing my injury and having time off from playing, my friend from player development and I dug into reading the Bible. Thanksgiving was a week away, and one afternoon, we read Matthew 25:40, which says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (NIV). I had an idea.

“Burgers!” I blurted out that afternoon. “Let’s buy a bunch of burgers at Mickey D’s and pass them out to the homeless on Thanksgiving!” He was all in, though neither one of us was quite sure how or where to start.

That night Akii, my old trainer who I still stayed in touch with, and his wife popped up in town to hang out. 

We decided to watch a Christian flick. I hate saying it, but the film was so cheesy that halfway through, the three of us bolted and slipped into the theatre playing Thor. Afterwards, we sat outside under the night sky for an hour talking basketball and how my rehab was going.

Akii, who was always invested in my spirituality, casually asked my thoughts as it pertained to God. I didn’t blow him off like I used to. I admitted I was actively seeking truth through reading and watching videos on Christian apologetics. “I’m searching for God to make Himself real to me,” I said. When we parted ways, Akii assured me that if I genuinely sought after God, it would only be a matter of time until I found Him.

As I drove out of the parking lot of the downtown theater, a familiar car was pulling in. The driver and I rolled down our windows at the same time. As soon as I saw it was Doc, I had to laugh. Akii’s words rang in my head. I thought, God must want this guy in my life.

Before Doc had a chance to spit out, “What’s up, man?” I shot out the first words. “You and me. Breakfast tomorrow.”

I drove home thinking if I had stayed and watched the rest of the first film or spoke with Akii any longer or shorter, I wouldn’t have run into Doc. There’s no way this is just a coincidence.

The next morning as Doc and I chewed syrup-drenched pancakes, I told him about my plan to feed the homeless. Yeah, I was definitely trying to show off.

“Burgers, huh? Like fast food?” he asked, hiking up an eyebrow.

“Yeah, like you know how the Bible in Matthew 25:40 tells us about the least of these?”

“Jonathan, you can’t do it like that. If you’re going to feed people, you have to do it right. Look, I have a catering company. If you buy the food, I’ll have my people cook it and help you serve it.”

“I’m down with that,” I said, nodding. It was the start of something new. 

Jonathan Isaac is an author, activist, and NBA player with the Orlando Magic. His new book Why I Stand is available now.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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