The late Billy Graham used to quip that being born in a garage didn’t make you a car.
Being born into a Catholic family didn’t make Kobe Bryant a God-fearing Christian.
But, in 2015, he told “GQ” magazine that his 2003 rape accusation in Colorado scared him.
Now, even with his Catholic upbringing in Italy, he had fallen away from his faith. This man, who often took 2500 practice shots in a workout, was not practicing his walk with Christ.
You can fall out of practice so easily. Still go to services. Even be active in your church. You can have enough religion to “seem religious”, but it can innoculate you against faith, like a shell. You go through the motions, but you’re really not sure about your salvation.
Kobe Bryant, after Colorado, perhaps remembering his youth, reached out to a priest.
“It was actually kind of funny: He looks at me and says, ’Did you do it?’ And I say, ’Of course not.’ Then he asks, ’Do you have a good lawyer?’ And I’m like, ’Uh, yeah, he’s phenomenal.’ So then he just said, ’Let it go. Move on. God’s not going to give you anything you can’t handle, and it’s in his hands now. This is something you can’t control. So let it go.’ And that was the turning point.”
Up to the morning of his shocking death in a helicopter crash, Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna attended mass at Holy Family Catholic Church in Orange, CA.
He’d also partnered with his local diocese to fund shelters and soup kitchens for the local poor.
I’m writing this not to make you admire Kobe Bryant. Decide for yourself. You may have been a fan, and you may be grieving him. You may think his story is getting too much attention, or that you disapprove of things he did in his life.
None of that matters to me, really.
I’m writing this because, whether you grew up in the church and drifted away, or never had faith in your life, you can make Kobe’s choice.
In your lowest moment, you can pray, you can ask for help, you can come home. It looks like Kobe Bryant took that shot.
One of the greatest Bible stories, that of the “prodigal son” (Luke 15:11), finds a young man who gets it all, loses it all, is brought low, and returns home to his father.
The son trudges home expecting not forgiveness, but merely, he hopes, a servant’s job on his father’s property.
Instead, he finds his father’s been waiting for him, standing out and watching the road for him every day.
He welcomes his son home with love and mercy.
That shot is open for you, too.