Learn From the Phillies…: KevinH
My family and I celebrated this past Memorial Day by going to a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game. (Well, I guess it was more of a celebration for some us than others, as some were more interested in finding shade and cotton candy than actually watching the game. 🙂 )
The game was tied 2-2 going into the ninth and final inning of regulation only for the Phillies’ beleaguered bullpen (the relief pitchers) to allow the San Francisco Giants to take the lead in the top of the ninth. In the bottom of the ninth, however, Kyle Schwarber came to the rescue and hit a home run to tie up the game once again. Yet, when the game went to the 10th inning, the bullpen faltered once more and this time there were no heroics from the offense, and the Phillies suffered yet another frustrating and demoralizing defeat.
This was a disturbing pattern for the Phillies over the last few years – losing games in excruciating fashion and failing to meet expectations on the season on the whole. Except the pattern was growing even worse as this latest loss dropped the Phillies record to 21 wins and 28 losses after they had spent big money acquiring players during the offseason who were expected to help give the push to finally get the Phillies into the playoffs for the first time in 11 years – the longest active streak in the National League of a team not making the playoffs.
Two days after we attended that game, the ax fell on Phillies manager Joe Girardi and he was removed from his duties. Girardi, who came with a winning pedigree and track record as a manager, was hired a couple seasons earlier to help the Phillies get over the hump and into the playoffs. Yet, it just hadn’t worked out as planned.
Girardi knew his job was on the line as he entered this season, as his team hadn’t been meeting expectations since he became manager. It is said that Girardi grew tense and uptight, especially as the losses mounted, and it rubbed off on the players. This tense atmosphere seemingly inhibited the performance of the players as the fear of failure and making mistakes played on their minds.
After Girardi’s firing, Rob Thomson, Girardi’s long-time right-hand man and bench coach, was given the job of interim manager. Thomson, while being very organized and on top of things, also has a very calm, even-keeled demeanor. He created an atmosphere where the players were able to relax and sure enough, they turned their season around and made the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. Not only did the Phillies make the playoffs, but they also have made it all the way to the World Series and now have the opportunity to win just their third World Series championship in their 140 year history.
As we live out our lives as Christians, we sometimes can become stunted by the fear of failure, the fear of making mistakes, and the fear of not meeting expectations. Whether it is an atmosphere we create ourselves or is assisted by others around us, the fears and tense feelings inhibit our “performance”. Of greater consequence, however, we end up missing out on or at least diminishing the experience and impact of God’s grace and love in our lives.
I am not a risk taker by nature, especially when it comes to expression of feelings and emotions, both to myself and in interaction with others, as such things can often be awkward, uncertain, and uncomfortable for me. As such, I often allow fears and the perceived tense feelings to inhibit me all the more and I end up missing out on greater relationship, sometimes even impairing them, and most certainly miss out on experiencing the fullness of God’s love and grace.
Others may have other obstacles they struggle with which create a tense and constraining atmosphere. Whether it is a battle with addictions, or a struggle with uncontrolled anger, or an over-concern with dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s that a “good” Christian is supposed to do, or of just not feeling worthy of God’s love and acceptance, we can get all caught up in an anxious and stressful disposition which not only negatively affects our behavior, but causes us to miss out on truly or fully experiencing the love and grace of God.
No matter how hard we try, no matter how diligently we plan for success, we’re going to mess up. Whether that is striking out or making an error on the playing field, or doing or saying something hurtful to someone else, or giving in to that same old temptation again, or failing to meet the standard in some activity that a “good” Christian is supposed to meet, we will fail. And not just once, but many times over.
We can choose to wallow in that failure and/or live in an uptight atmosphere, constantly worrying about messing up again. Or we can choose to believe God when He tells us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” We can believe Jesus when He tells us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” We can believe the Apostle John when writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” and when God, Himself says, “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”
The team that wins the World Series each year still lost 50 or more games that season, struck out hundreds, if not thousands of times, and made plenty of errors along the way. Yet, they still managed to win the championship. For those of us who have trusted in Christ, despite our many errors, we already have the championship won for us. Even as we have screwed up many times and will many times more so, Christ has won our salvation for us and we are promised to be forever in His graces.
May we rest in that grace and go forth boldly in God’s Kingdom, fearing not sin or shortcoming, repenting when they inevitably occur, and living out God’s love and grace.