A couple days ago I read an article about Lamar Odom. Unless you have been at a brothel in the middle of nowhere yourself, you know that he was found in critical condition in a brothel in Nevada and that he reportedly took a lot of cocaine and some other stuff and had weird fluid coming out of his nose and mouth. Last I read, he is improving daily. I didn’t need to read that long ESPN article to find that out. I knew that. But what I learned was much more powerful and profound. Me and Lamar Odom are not all that different.
We are both sinners.
We are both sufferers.We are both made in the image of God.
Lamar Odom lost his mother when he was twelve. He was abused by his father. He lost his grandma when he was twenty-three. He lost a child to sudden infant death syndrome. He lost his best friend and another friend this summer to drug overdoses. His marriage is in shambles. No wonder he felt hopeless. This does not excuse his mistakes, but it puts them in perspective.
He used cocaine and prostitutes to cope with the pain.
My life doesn’t suck near as much as his, but I know what it feels like to be hopeless. As I have written elsewhere I have struggled with depression since at least middle school.
I have watched porn to cope, though by the grace of God not for a long time. I have used sleeping pills to put myself to sleep at 6 pm when the pain was too bearable to take.
Sounds pretty similar. The only thing separating us is the grace of God. I would probably have gone to a brothel had I been given the opportunity and known I wouldn’t be caught. Thankfully prostitution is illegal in Ohio. I probably would have used drugs had I not been scared to use them and known they harmful to my running performance. If I did not have a stable home with two caring parents and friends, I don’t know what direction I would have taken with my life. I am no more deserving of grace than Lamar Odom. I am no better.
G. K. Chesterton wrote “every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.” According to the owner of the brothel, Odom was clearly in emotional pain and was eager to talk and share his story with her and the prostitutes he paid for. One of the women, who by the way hasn’t exactly had an easy life herself said “he was a very sweet man. We talked about all the screwed up things that had happened in his life…All of it. Just pain.” (In case you were interested, her husband was murdered a mere eighteen months ago and is trying to raise two kids as a single mom.) Odom didn’t just want sex and drugs. He didn’t need to go to a brothel out in the middle of nowhere to get that. He wanted to escape. He wanted someone who would listen. Maybe the church could become that escape and the ears that would listen instead of a bunch of loud voices telling him that a life of sex and drugs won’t satisfy him. I bet he knows that. Telling him and others like him that is easy. Listening to them and loving them is not. As Jared Wilson has said, when the church truly preaches the gospel, she will attract the messiest of sinners. Sinners like Lamar Odom. The church is just a bunch of messy redeemed sinners. Hopefully through this Odom will realize his need for Jesus who can fill his heart.
And hopefully we will see that he is not just a sinner, but also a human being made in the image of God worthy of dignity and respect. When asked about Odom, former teammate Luke Walton said that he always was looking to help out and encouraging his teammates and others who were struggling. He said “Lamar was always the guy who was there for you.” Lakers trainer Gary Vitti said
“there’s people who say, ‘I love you’…Those three words are pretty easy to come out of people’s mouths. But Lamar doesn’t just say it. He actually shows you love.”
We must also see these positive qualities he holds.
Lamar Odom needs out prayers and love not our judgement. Pray for him, and Khloe Kardashian, and Kim Kardashian, and Kanye West, and Caitlyn Jenner and the prostitutes at the brothel whose husband was murdered. Pray that they would know that they are sinners in need of the grace of God and that they are beloved by the God of the universe.