"We Got Next"

By: Lori Heine

Too often, when we make out our lists of resolutions for the New Year, they seem like drudgery. And if the very chore of making up a list is drudgery, we can only imagine what trying to carry out our resolutions might be like. Maybe that's because, too often, we forget to add one very important item. God wants us to enjoy our New Year, the whole year though. God wants us to have ourselves some fun.

God has a sense of humor. Among all the wonderful things God created, we may certainly include fun. It's not irreverent to say so. If God, indeed, made everything, it only stands to reason that "He" made fun, too. And God can work, in our daily lives, through absolutely any and every experience we may have. Not just those that qualify as officially profound, as grave and frowny-facedly "religious," but even when we're having a blast.

The WNBA's first season, its advertising motto was "We Got Next." I wasn't quite sure what that meant, but having been a diehard Phoenix Suns fan ever since their own expansion season, when I was in the first grade, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

I'd grown up at a time when the very idea of women playing pro basketball was considered ludicrous. I was a little tomboy, totally frustrated that no matter how many boys I could beat in one-on-one, I could never make it to the NBA. Until my junior year in high school, my school didn't even have a girls' basketball team.

My first favorite Suns player was Dick Van Arsdale. I had pictures of him up all over my bedroom: his blond hair flying as he charged his way to the hoop. My mom and dad, of course, totally misunderstood. When, a couple of years earlier, I'd hung pictures of Barbara Eden up all over my room, of course they thought it was simply because I was a "big fan" of I Dream of Jeannie. But when the Dick Van Arsdale photos went up, all of a sudden I was said to "have a crush" on him.

And how could I have set the record (in a manner of speaking) straight? I'd had a crush, indeed, on the lovely Jeannie, wishing I had been the one to find that bottle on the beach instead of Larry Hagman. But I had no "crush" on Dick Van Arsdale. I wanted to have Jeannie; I wanted to be Dick Van Arsdale.

My poor parents would have thought me quite confused. They would have hoped that I'd "grow out of it." And I tried to - I really did. Years and years later, at thirty-four and a half, I was a lonely, frustrated woman, still doing my damnedest to "grow out of it," and, after a long string of failed relationships with men, finally fall in love with Mr. Right so all my problems would be solved.

Then I went to my first Phoenix Mercury game, and at least I found one of my long-time fantasies coming true. Women really could play pro basketball. Some girls - not too many years younger than me - really had grown up to fulfill their dreams.

"We Got Next" began to make some sense to me. And as I kept going to Mercury games, I got hooked. Now living on my own, I could hang up all the pictures I wanted to of my new favorite player, Michele Timms, and not have to worry about whether people thought there was anything strange about my being such a big fan of hers.

I no longer wanted to be Dick Van Arsdale; now I wanted to be Michele Timms. Matter of fact, I wouldn't have minded having her, either.

Of course, at WNBA games, their fan base is largely - as we like to say - "family." So for the first time, I got to mingle with those I quickly came to realize were, indeed, my kin.

"Don't go to those WNBA games," men used to warn their wives and girlfriends (and probably still do). "They'll turn you into a lesbian!"

Don't laugh at them. At least in my case, it seems to have been true. I'm quite sure that Joe, the man who has the dubious distinction of having been my last boyfriend, will never be persuaded otherwise.

"Show me Your ways, O Lord," says our Scripture verse for this issue. Though a good many Bible-beaters will never be persuaded otherwise, these crazy, screaming, riotously-fun Mercury games were the way God used - I am fully convinced - to show me, at long last, who I really am. All the scattered pieces of the puzzle that had been my understanding of myself finally came together that magical summer of 1997, when the Mercury first came to town.

Sounds silly, I'm sure. But never underestimate the creative power or the playful sense of humor of the Lord our God.

God works in both the happy and the sad. It is clear that God is using the evil being done against us as the very means by which the rightness of our cause can be recognized. As unexpected as this might be, God has worked this way with many other oppressed peoples in the past. Including some who - ironically - may not yet recognize it in the lives of others.

At the Join the Impact rally on November 15, I was again among my kin. And, at least for that day, it was glorious fun. Liberal, inclusive, progressive, optimistic people are happier and healthier people than those who oppress, hate, fear and condemn. The curmudgeons who oppose us did not even dare to show their faces.

We have the future on our side. We got next.

God works through the reality of our lives, and through the day-to-day world in which we live. "He" does not transport us to some mystical mountaintop, but meets us wherever we happen to be.

We see that in the very Incarnation itself. The theology of the Incarnation is not about stars or Wise Men or shepherds, nor (the neuroses of heterosexual men ever since the Stone Age aside) has it anything to do with virgins. It is all about the fact that God "so loved the world" that "He" came to live among us, in our messy world, as one of us. God met us where we are. There is no truth more deeply and fundamentally Christian.

Sometimes we have to exercise great patience, and wait for what seems an eternity. But God is working in us, and through us, and in and through others, in ways and situations where we would never think of finding "Him." At a basketball game? In a plague? In an unconstitutional vote, rendered by bigots?

In the good, the bad and the ugly. Yes, in all of it.

AIDS solidified our community, helping us to realize how much we matter to each other, bringing us back to church (opening some Christians' hearts to us, even as it closed others') and spurring us to the altar to marry and form families of our own. This asinine new wave of anti-gay marriage legislation may very well have revealed - once and for all - where the fault-line between good and evil in our struggle really lies. God has been showing "Himself" on what seemed, at first, to be the losing side ever since the "good religious people" condemned Christ to death - only to see Him rise again. Ever since a motley nation of slaves was freed from bondage in Egypt.

When I was a girl, I was always being told what I couldn't do. Something as simple as a basketball league showed me not to take "no" for an answer.

Yes we can. We got next. These are not merely slogans. Thanks be to God, they are the promise of reality already in the process of being fulfilled.

Who knows what our New Year might bring us? It looks to be a grim year, according to the "experts," but those experts have been wrong before, and they may turn out to be wrong again. One thing they never seem to remember to factor in is the will of God. "Next," for us, may turn out to be better than ever.

Lori Heine serves on Whosoever's board of directors. She maintains a blog called Born on 911.

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