An overweight baseball player hits the ball way down centerfield. Without hesitation, the tubby player does what he always does… makes a quick base hit and runs as fast as his body will allow toward first-base, but always stopping at first-base. Except this time, he decides to go for it. Somehow, he musters the courage to go for second-base, just hoping that long-drive down centerfield has bought him enough time to get to there. After running over first-base, he turns the corner and guns it…
And then his biggest nightmare happens.
Something trips his feet up and he stumbles onto the dirt, rolling over once or twice.
The crowds begin to laugh…
The frantic athlete finds himself on his stomach, fearfully crawling like a hyperactive, overgrown baby back to first-base.
Tap… his fingertips grip the plate. I’m safe at first, he thinks to himself.
And the laughter persists.
The hitter looks up embarrassed, as the first baseman approaches him. Tapping him on the shoulder, the first baseman looks down at him and with a big smile says, “Hey buddy, get up! You hit a homerun!! Run, man!”
Completely stunned yet overjoyed, the hitter gets up… cleans the dirt off his uniform… and he peacefully jogs passed second-base, then passes third, and as he makes his way to homeplate, the world sees the biggest smile this man has ever made in his entire baseball career. The crowd goes wild as they cheer. He finally makes it Home.
The man failed to see he made a homerun because his fears and insecurities blinded him from what he thought was impossible: Winning. He was so used to being handicapped by his weight, other people’s perceptions, and his past performances, that he couldn’t even imagine doing better than just okay.
Sometimes I think a lot of us go through life like this…
And like a lot of people, I have a lot of my own fears and insecurities. For instance, I often wish I were taller. I worry about finances. I often wonder if certain people don’t like me and constantly have to remind myself not to care so much about that. I remember being picked on as a kid for being different, Asian, un-athletic, and/or emotional.
I moved around a lot so friends were a luxury I couldn’t afford. In fact, we couldn’t afford a lot of things as a family during my childhood like cool clothes, expensive restaurants, or extravagant vacations.
As I grew up, the desire to belong and be accepted grew bigger and bigger as my ultimate destination. And the vehicle that was going to get me there was going to be my performance. My performance in school, at work, in relationships… always had to be stellar. And eventually, I carried this performance-driven nature into religion.
Before I became a Christian, I figured as long as I was a good person, it would be enough to secure my spot in heaven… and hopefully, God would just hook me up with decent neighbors. Looking back, I can’t help but laugh at myself. So clueless.
But after I became a Christian (which is a whole other story in itself which I’m sure will warrant another blog later), I believed as long as I did good, God would love me more. And the less bad I did, the less likely I would be punished. With this in mind, I figured I would “base-hit” my way into God’s love and acceptance of me by performing well, whether it was through diligent Bible study, praying and journaling regularly, or even sacrificially serving others in and outside of the Church.
I eventually got myself to buy into the lie that I could actually earn God’s favor. Despite my mistakes, my shortcomings, my fears and insecurities, as long as I performed well, God and I were good.
It didn’t take me long to find myself constantly burned out, frustrated, and disappointed in myself for not being able to hold myself accountable to doing more, being stronger, better controlled, less angry, more like Jesus… because I realized I was trying to be my own savior, instead of letting Jesus be the Savior He was always meant to be.
Thankfully, the truth of the Gospel is this: Jesus hit the homerun I never could…
The Gospel says Jesus lived the perfect life I never could and died the death that I deserved all so that I could be given the righteousness I was always meant to have but could never earn on my own.
By dying on the cross and raising Himself from the dead, He gave me the right to come Home(plate)… an act I could never do by myself. And His homerun-hitting redemption goes beyond me, and beyond you even… He plans to redeem all creation through the power of the resurrection.
It’s funny. I don’t really consider myself a “baseball guy.”
But generally-speaking, I think the world loves to witness when the un-expected, the outcasted, or even the underdog goes against all odds… and wins the game. There was a line that Billy Bean, former-manager for the Oakland A’s baseball team, used to say whenever the underdog did unexpectedly well: “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” And when you put baseball in terms of the Gospel, it’s hard not to… especially since Jesus Christ was the best baseball player ever in the history of all time.