10.07.2010

Pinch Hitters for Jesus


When we read the Bible, it is not hard for us to imagine things proceeding at a fast pace. We forget that the Bible records the highlights of a faith story, not unlike how ESPN shows us the key plays on SportsCenter instead of running the game in its entirety. We read the book of Genesis, for example, and forget that in between visits by God, Abraham and Sarah had to wait a long time in their childlessness, or that Joseph had to wait a long time before his brothers' betrayal made sense as part of a grander plan for his life. Especially in America, we can want the action to be non-stop. But sometimes being faithful means biding your time, being ready for the right moment, and making the most of that confluence of divine appointment and human opportunity.

It is October, so I cannot help but make a baseball analogy for the Christian faith. We are like pinch hitters, trying to keep warm as the game proceeds, weaving its distinctive arc like any good story. We have a sense that we might get in the game, and we may even have a sense of when and in what situation, but ultimately it is an unknown to us until that moment actually arrives and we hear the summons from our manager. We take a few practice swings, and then suddenly, the spotlight is on us: the fans are cheering, the game is winding down, a fierce pitcher stares us down, and the outcome hangs in the balance.

Maybe some of us are, to continue the baseball analogy, the starting pitcher or the star shortstop: we are constantly at the center of the action, our every move playing a part in the final result. But this is not the role for many of us, who instead are pinch hitters for Jesus, biding our time until our name is called. We dream of the perfect situation to deliver the game-winning hit, but think about the scenarios also with the dread of knowing we are facing the best who is going to give us his best, and if we fail we let down our teammates and the manager who called for us in that situation.

Being a pinch hitter is not for the faint of heart. Thankfully, we succeed not by our cunning or brute force, but through the strength of our God made perfect in (and not in spite of) our weakness. And, thankfully, the final verdict of this most important contest is decided: however fearsome is our enemy, he has been mortally wounded, his cause decisively vanquished. And, therefore, our role is ultimately one that contributes to a victory, our participation is on a team that will one day celebrate the ultimate accomplishment.

"Pinch hitters for Jesus" may not seem so glamorous a way of thinking of the Christian journey. But I think it is a useful analogy. Now, let's get some practice swings in and keep our minds and bodies ready for action. For when our name is called and we get to dig in against our opponent, we want to be ready to strike a decisive blow and make our contribution to victory.



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