I am a big fan of baseball. It is a fantastic game, woven into the very fabric of our country and has great parallels to life. Especially the Overboard Life. I won’t bore you (today) with endless analogies, but I will share one. It’s really what makes baseball such a great game to be a fan of, a great game to watch live, or to listen to on the radio. It’s the simple fact that baseball is a game of moments.
While watching the White Sox play the Indians in the Cleveland last month, I left the park satisfied after seeing a 3-2 victory. Two of the five runs scored were unmemorable. Two were scored as part of a comeback, and had a thrilling component to them. But the fifth run, the game-winning run, was a moment I will never forget.
After the Indians fought back to tie the game at 2, the ninth inning was for a great ending. The White Sox threatened, but didn’t score in the top of the ninth. In the bottom of the ninth, Indian’s skipper Terry Francona inserted Jason Giambi into the line up, an old school power hitting player who is at the end of his career, to hit for a struggling batter. He hit the first pitch a long way, but foul. The excitement of the crowd grew after his first hit, and got louder when the second pitch was a ball. With one ball and one strike on him, Giambi took the third pitch for a ride to deep center field.
The crowd roared as he rounded the bases after his home run, after all, we were all watching one of the great moments of baseball unfolded before our eyes -- a walk off home run (a home run that ends a game)!
This probably won’t shock you, but this hit wasn’t Giambi’s first career home run. Actually, it was the 437th time he rounded the bases on a free trip home. This wasn’t even Jason’s first career walk-off home run -- It was his ninth. (As a fun side note, he is the oldest player in baseball history to hit a walk-off home run!) While Jason rose the occasion in the moment he was called on, the previous 19 years of his career had prepared him for that at bat.
That’s one of the beauties of baseball: players go through motion, inning after inning, at-bat after at-bat, so that when key moment comes, they are ready! Over his career, Jason has had 7,168 plate appearances, and not all of them have been very good. In fact, 1,548 of those at-bats ended with Jason striking out. Think of that -- Jason has struck out almost four times as often as he has hit home runs (and yet the guy has banked over 133,000,000 in his career, failing four times as often as he succeeded!).
How many times did Jason take batting practice? How many times did he practice hitting baseball on a simulator or in a batting cage? How much film did he watch of opposing pitchers, and how often did he hit the gym or work out room prepping for a game-winning at-bat? Jason’s career hasn’t been as great or honorable as it could have been, but thanks to him -- I have a baseball memory I won’t soon forget.
The Overboard Life shares great similarities with this aspect of baseball. So many of us want to walk on water when Jesus calls us out of the boat. We want to be there and be ready when the moment calls for great faith, but our readiness will directly relate to our preparation. We have to take the practice swings, we have to pop up and strike out a few times and we have to be willing to put in the daily work in batting cage, but through it all -- we have to flex our faith muscles so that when the time comes, our faith and our actions will line up.
Sometimes the daily work, the ‘small’ stuff, can seem so mundane compared to the big moments. How are you doing in the little details? Does your daily life reflect a pattern that will support your readiness for the great moments? When Peter walked on the water in Matthew 14, it wasn’t his first time obeying the call of Jesus. In the same way, God is using the little moments of each day to prepare you and I for the special moments of faith and change.
As the fall rolls around, I’m revisiting some personal disciplines. Like Jason Giambi on that magical night in Cleveland, I want to be ready when I’m called into the game for a special moment of faith and practice. When Jesus calls to me and asks me to join Him on the water, I want to have lived my life in such a way as to be ready to follow like Peter; to grab the sides of the boat and take a leap onto the stormy sea.
Are you living the Overboard Life in the little things? Are you practicing your faith each day, preparing yourself for the moment that Jesus calls you out of the boat?
Go ahead and take the plunge, every day, because life is always better on the water!
p.s. One of the greatest moments in baseball history...couldn't resist one more clip!