Mike Tyson and the Journey of Becoming

(This post is a cut and paste from my Friday night sermon notes, but I’m sure you can piece it together.)

It’s a fundamental mistake to think that life is about achievement and accomplishment. It’s not. Life (as our Creator intends it) is primarily about becoming. The journey through life is not primarily about where you go, or even what you do; the journey through life is mainly about what you become.

Today I came across this in The Week:

Mike Tyson has been humbled by life, said Ivan Solotaroff in Details. The former boxing champ—known for his savage brutality in the ring and his destructive behavior away from it—feels real remorse for the way he’s behaved over the years, from his 1992 sexual-assault conviction to biting off a chunk of another boxer’s ear in 1997. “Objectively, I’m a pig,” says Tyson. “The first stage of my life was just a whole bunch of selfishness. I thought I was a god. Now I’m 44 and I realize my whole life is just a f—ing waste.” Ruled by rage for most of his life, Tyson was finally broken last year when his 4-year-old daughter, Exodus, died after inadvertently becoming tangled in an exercise cord dangling from a treadmill. “If you’re not humble, life will visit humbleness upon you,” he says. “After I lost my daughter, all these people reached out and I realized: I just want to be of service to people. I need to help. I need to have something, finally, that I can offer to people in this world. I’m a really damaged human being and it’s still such a struggle, but I’m going to fight to the end this time. I’m just trying to be a man.”

It seems to me that Mike Tyson is on the journey of becoming. Becoming poor in spirit. And that’s where the journey begins. Realizing we are a “really damaged human” with “a whole bunch of selfishness” is the first step toward rethinking our lives and seeking to become something else. Is Mike Tyson a follower of Jesus? I don’t think so. Not that I know of. Not yet. But that doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t at work in his life. Jesus is Lord…and he is Lord of the whole world!

In his brilliant book Practice Resurrection Eugene Peterson warns us about the tendency to casually refer to certain aspects of life (ours and others) as “B.C.”

The Christian life is too often treated in our culture as an extra, something we get involved in after we have the basic survival needs established and then realize that things aren’t yet quite complete. So we become a Christian. That is all well and good, but there is no B.C. in our lives, no “Before Christ.” Neither is there any B.C. in anyone else who is not a confessed Christian. Christ is always present, for all of us. Just because we have no awareness of the presence and action of God previous to our knowledge of it does not mean that God was absent. We must not naively assume that the Christian life begins with us. As long as we think in those terms, we are apt to judge everything and everyone else by our experience and circumstances. That kind of thinking is understandable in adolescents. But we are called to grow up.

There was a time in my life before I had made a definite decision to follow Christ. But that doesn’t mean my life was B.C. Christ has always been at work in my life. Christ has always been at work in your life…and in the life of everyone you know. Including Mike Tyson.

Mike Tyson and the Journey of Becoming

Life is a journey.
A journey of becoming.
Life is not so much about where you go or what you do.
Life is about what you become.

You are either moving toward full humanity or moving away from it.
This is what Mike Tyson is beginning to understand.
He doesn’t want to be a selfish pig anymore—
He wants to become a man.
The “baddest man on the planet”
Wants to become a man.

He may not yet understand that Christ is already part of his journey of becoming.
But he is.
Because Christ is the man, the true human, the fully human one.
Mike Tyson was the Heavy Weight Champion of the World.
But Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World.

And Christ announces good news to those who are poor in spirit.
He says: The kingdom of heaven is for the likes of you!
We begin to enter this kingdom, this other way of being—
When we begin to become…

The journey of becoming (when traveled faithfully)—
Will make us fully human, like Jesus Christ.
For Christ has given us a totally new way of being human.

But the first step in becoming fully human
In the Christlike way
Is to begin to become
To say things like:

I thought I was a god.
But I was a pig.
My life has been a whole bunch of selfishness.
My whole life has been a waste.
I’m a damaged human being.
I need help.
I need to help others.
I’m just trying to be a man.
I’m just trying to be human.

I’m convinced that a burned-out boxer
Who can say these things
Is closer to the kingdom of heaven
Closer to becoming
Fully human
Than the smug and self-satisfied “Christian”
So sure he’s totally saved and already arrived.

So what is the lesson to learn?
If you’re not humble, life will visit humbleness upon you.
So stay humble.
And stay on the journey.
The journey of becoming.


PS: Say a prayer for Mike Tyson