“Hayden, we just want you to know we don’t care what the elders say. You go ahead and play in Sunday’s game.” Others who had gathered around Hayden after church nodded in agreement.
“Um… thanks”. Hayden didn’t know what to say. Word had spread quickly after the elders had asked him not to play on the Sabbath again. Local newspapers had picked up the story, one with this headline: Elders Rain on Miracle. Another said: Puritan Revival? Hell No! Now ESPN was calling both Hayden and the Pastor for an interview. Hayden the “Miracle Man” was already the most-watched player in the NCAA tourney, and the controversy only made the media-wolves drool harder.
Hayden extricated himself to ask Dorcas if she wanted to go to brunch. “Hey Dorkie!”, he called across Fellowship Hall. But she seemed not to hear him as she pushed through the exit. Irate, he turned – and bumped smack into Gloria.
“Oh, hi Hayden, I was…looking for you.”
She wants me, Hayden thought. Then: Shake yourself, dude. EVERY guy thinks that. Hayden recovered and smiled. “Hey, you. What’s up”
“I uh…” Gloria faltered, clearly nervous. “I just wanted to let you know… I’m coming to Teiliff with the mission team.”
Hayden was floored. That this lovely lady had depth, he’d sensed; but he never considered she might also have guts. He stared, astonished.
“Well don’t look so surprised!”, she teased. But she still looked nervous. Hayden wondered why.
Hayden found himself on the basketball court. It was the regional finals against North Carolina. And it was Sunday.
He’d avoided thinking about his decision. He had nearly – nearly – suppressed all thought about the 4th commandment. But now, as the ref walked to mid-court, Hayden panicked. What if God punishes me by taking away this gift?
The ball went up. Jason tipped it right to Hayden. Two steps, a spin-dribble around the guard, and Hayden lofted a long 3-pointer. Swish.
The crowd exploded: “Hay-DEN, Hay-DEN, Hay-DEN”. But Hayden stood, suddenly immobile. His man dribbled past; he let him go. Coach shouted at him, but he didn’t hear. Coach called time-out and the other players pulled Hayden, still glassy-eyed, to the bench.
“Get your head out of your butt, Daily!”, Coach shouted in his face. Hayden nodded. “OK. OK, I’m OK. Let’s go”. The team pulled in, hands in the middle – and Hayden was on again.
Was he ever. 43 points, 12 rebounds, 15 assists. And a trip to the Final Four – next Sunday.
Charles caught him in the locker room. “Yo, man, what was up with you out there?”
Hayden shook his head. “Dunno”. But he couldn’t stop re-playing that first flawless and effortless 3-pointer in his head. Hayden realized with calm clarity: it wasn’t me who took that shot.
Meetings of the Teiliff mission team were normally upbeat, but today Elder Andrew was tense. “The State Department approved our visas” he said, “but there’s more. I’d better read it aloud": The situation in Afghanistan has worsened due to the recent release of Christian convert Abdul Rahman. Moslem radicals who demanded his death are now helping to re-arm local warlords. We therefore require you to sign a no-hostage agreement as a condition of your visa.
“You mean”, said a man in his 50’s, “if we’re kid-napped, the government won’t negotiate for us?” “That’s right”, said Elder Andrew. “And if while building the water purifier we lead someone to Christ, they could be stoned?”, asked Dorcas. “That’s crazy”.
“That’s shari’ah – Islamic law”, Elder Andrew said. “And apparently…we could be stoned too.”
The congregation listened as the Pastor spoke, shocked. Glass was all over the sanctuary floor where two stained-glass windows had been shattered. “Sometime last night two rocks were thrown through our windows”, the Pastor said. “A note was attached to one. It says:
Damn your stupid rules, let Hayden play.
All eyes turned to Hayden.