Baseball, it is said, is a game built on failure. A superb hitter fails twice as often as he succeeds. A hall of fame pitcher will have games in which he inexplicably gives up six runs in a three and one third inning blowout. One can learn perspective from a game built on failure.
Tampa Bay Rays outfielder B. J. Upton Sunday had a day in which failure outgunned success. He struck out four times. After a walk, he was then picked off first (albeit making it to second anyway). And he missed a spectacular, but catchable catch in the ninth inning.
When asked about his day, his response, as reported in the Tampa Bay Times, was this:
“Describe my day? Malo. If I was fluent in Spanish, that’s exactly what I would say, malo, which means bad,” Upton said. “But, you know what, it’s over with.”
It’s that last line that struck me. That’s perspective.
I, too, had a bad day yesterday. I’m a preacher, and a good portion of each week is invested in preparing and delivering a sermon. It is easy to let a whole lot of my identity get wrapped up in that thirty minutes or so of public attention. And Sunday I felt like I struck out four times, got picked off first, and dropped a catchable fly. In my opinion, the sermon was malo.
Asked later why I thought so, I gave my five irrefutable (!) reasons for my judgment, but I still lacked perspective. I was still mulling over the sermon this morning, unable to say, “But, you know what, it’s over with.” B. J. is ready to move on. I was not.
But perspective is what we need. Most, if not all, preachers are going to have bad days. There will be sermons that just do not soar. There will be days when the heart fails to engage with the words. There will be days when we care far more about what this person or that thinks. And such days bother us when we forget that God can take the well meant words of a bumbling preacher and change the world. He can draw his straight lines with our crooked sticks.
In the end, I realize, what suffers most in a sermon that just does not make the cut is my pride. When I care more for the ‘Great sermon, Randy’ than I do for the ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ I will not be able to let go of the remorse when a sermon is malo. The problem, always, is in my heart.
So, thanks, B. J. We both had a bad day. “But you know what, it’s over with.” I am still loved by God who has prepared work for me to do, and he has given me another week in which to do it.
Thanks for the good reminder. (But please, stop striking out.)