Regular readers of this blog know that I am a die-hard baseball fan. This year was very exciting for me, as my beloved Cincinnati Reds made it to the playoffs after 15 years of languishing in obscurity. Unfortunately, their stay in the playoffs was so brief that you missed it if you blinked. But my favorite American League team this year has been the Texas Rangers, who made it to the World Series for the first time in their 60-year history. So I still have a team to root for, albeit not as enthusiastically as I would if the Reds made it.
I did not follow the Rangers because they formally resided in the Washington, D.C., but because of their star player, Josh Hamilton. For those of you unfamiliar with the story of Hamilton (and are still interested enough to be reading this far into the post), he was the “Number 1 Number 1″ draft pick in 1999 (which means he was the first player picked in the first round of the draft) by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He was a prodigious talent and everyone pegged him as “can’t miss.” What got most baseball executives salivating over him was that his incredible talent was matched by an equally strong character. No one had to worry about him hanging out with the wrong crowd or getting involved with drugs or alcohol.
Until he did. A year or so into his career, Hamilton was rehabbing from an injury, had too much down-time on his hands and ended up spiraling downward in dramatic fashion; he started by getting some tattoos and ended by being passed out in a crack house a few months later. His descent was dramatic and almost unbelievable: here was the “good kid” and he was now a crack addict who would most likely be dead before he was thirty.
But God intervened in his life and saved Hamilton from himself. Through the efforts of his father-in-law (a former addict himself) and especially his grandmother, Hamilton was able to quit his habits and gave his life to Christ. He returned to baseball and is now one of the best players in the game.
What I like most about Hamilton is the fact that he is so obviously flawed and weak. After the Rangers won their division, the team engaged in the traditional “champagne shower”. But Hamilton didn’t join the fun, because he knew that he couldn’t have alcohol being poured over him without it leading him to a relapse (after the Rangers won their playoff series, they decided to replace the champagne with Ginger Ale out of respect for Hamilton’s addictions). Here is one of the best players in professional baseball – a man who can hit a baseball a country mile and adored by millions – yet he is so weak that he can’t even be in the presence of alcohol. With Hamilton, you always know that he is just one mistake from a terrible relapse; he must depend on the power of God at every single moment in order just to make it through the day.
This reminds me of St. Paul’s statement, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). We all are weak and flawed individuals, and we all must depend on the power of God every single moment of the day – we just don’t usually realize it as clearly as Hamilton probably does. Hamilton, due to his dramatic descent into darkness, knows how close he is to the edge and therefore must turn to the Lord for the strength to carry on. We too need to recognize our own weakness and our dependence on God, and in doing so, we too will be strong – in the Lord.