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Friday, October 22, 2010

A-Rod and the Cross

I did something yesterday that I vowed I would never do.

I picked up Joe Torre's book "The Yankee Years."

For those of you who don't know, I love the Yankees. Probably one of my top five favorite things in the world (the other four being the members of my family). Baseball (softball too) has been threaded into our family since the day I was six and the Yankees are who we root for. We don't mind being proud followers of the evil empire.
And Joe Torre?
He was the manager in the glory days of the late 90's-early 2000's when the Yankees were so successful.. and then he bitterly left in '07 to coach the Dodgers.

Yes, I was one of those who took it to heart. Yes, I was that guy who wrote the meaningless angry editorial and had it printed in my small New England college's newspaper. Yes, I felt "betrayed" by his book and called it unnecessary.

Well, yesterday I picked it up (out of curiosity more than anything). I started skimming: and what I read blew me away.

He's human!
The players we watch and the players we cheer for and the players we boo: they're all human!
He wrote about certain players and their fear of failure and how that destroyed them mentally. He talked about the players he loved like sons. He talked about conversations, mistakes, personalities, his biggest regret.

And then he wrote about A-Rod.

Alex Rodriguez has got to be the most hated player in baseball.. history. If you don't love him, you really hate him. He's rich, he's good, he cheats on his wife: why wouldn't you hate him?

Except that he's human. He's just like me and you.

He obsessed with his stats because no one must have ever taught him that a team isn't about individual achievements. He worked the hardest because when he failed, there must have been something more he could have done. He had a hard time fitting in with his teammates because he compared himself to them and when he found his way of doing things wasn't working, he was stumped.
Reading Torre's words, all I can think about is that A-Rod just wants to be loved and accepted. He just wants to please everyone. He's always been praised and liked when he put up big numbers: so in his eyes, what happens when he fails? He's booed, he's disliked, and that's the way his life goes. His acceptance is performance based. His value is performance based. He's used to living a me-centered comparison game and it's given him incredible insecurities.

Don't we do the same things? Aren't we redeemed for the same things?

Because I read about A-Rod's life and I think: I've been there! I've done that! I live that! I've compared myself to others, I've made standards, I've racked myself with guilt when I thought I could have done more, when I feel like I've let people down, I've been nervous to come before God when I knew I hadn't been spending enough time with Him. It's exhausting. It's not the way the Cross tells us to live.

The Cross tells us to look around and compare ourselves and see there really is no one weaker.. and then to know that WE'RE LOVED AND VALUED ANYWAY. Life isn't about being good enough for the Cross. It tells us that we're loved despite what we do. It's recognizing that we're all A-Rods. We're worse than we think we are and Titus 3:3-7 has saved us.

I'm guilty of judging A-Rod. Of thinking his actions weren't a reflection of something deeper. Of gossiping about him. Of holding his flaws against him. I think it's a part of being a fan of a team but I question if it is. In those tumultuous months and during his continuous slumps, I wonder what I would have done if I had come face to face with him. Ridicule and question his ability? Or hug him and tell him he's loved and valued even if he never gets a hit the rest of his career?

In the end, I probably won't finish the book. I'm a nostalgic person and reading about the past and then watching the Yankees look awful against the Rangers makes me miss the old Yankees and the October nights staying up late watching World Series games with my family. It defined my childhood.

But the book was worth skimming in what it reminded me:

We're more like each other than we think. We're in this together.
The Cross frees us from performance, approval, and people pleasing.
Jesus died for you. He died for me. He died for A-Rod.

And the Red Sox: I guess He died for them too.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Motherhood: what a wonderful job.

I spend a lot of time with kids. Kids of all ages. I love them. And after getting a Guthe gift to spend four days with their three tinys, I've realized something that's been knocking on my heart for a while:

Motherhood is the best job. Ever.

The three I just finished watching are just so full of joy. They play, they laugh, they love each other: it's so infectious. They say hilarious things that make me laugh, they sing and dance to Fee's "Happy Day," and they think a fort in the living room is the coolest thing ever. Yes I was so thankful when naptime rolled around for a few moments of silence: but then I found myself counting down the minutes until the tinys woke up again.

Motherhood is so great.

Yes. I realize the longest consecutive stint I've had working that job is for eight days and so I have very little experience (actually I have none at all), but I'm gaining tremendous perspective.

I've been thinking a lot (and I have dear friends who remind me) that life is all about choices. You have a choice.. in everything. A choice in what to say, how to respond, how to react, if you want to act like Jesus or not. And more often than not, what happens when I lash out or the nastier sides of me show, it's because I made the wrong choice. The choice is there: it's just a matter of whether we choose to acknowledge it.

Parenting is all about choices. What to say when your child is making you want to scream. When you're exhausted. When you just want a second alone. There's a better way than your instinct.

It was 6:20 in the morning on Day 2 and one tiny wanted one thing and another tiny wanted another. And I wanted something completely different: time for a shower or time to just crawl back into bed for another three hours. And I remember getting to the point of frustration. And I remember feeling like my frustration was about to show and I remember noticing the choice. (That really never happens to me: I usually just make the wrong choice and deal with the consequences afterwards). But I noticed the choice this time and made the right one: I took a moment, hugged and kissed each tiny, and got them what they needed.

There's always a choice.

In "The Reason For God" (only halfway through but its easily climbing its way into my top five books), Tim Keller says that the "primary way to define sin is not just the doing of bad things, but the making of good things into ultimate things. It is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than your relationship with God."

And then he says this: "If you don't live for Jesus, you will live for something else. If you live for your children and they don't turn out all right, you could absolutely be in torment because you feel worthless as a person."

Having a family is good. It's great. God calls us to have families: it's in the Bible! We're supposed to love our children, care for them, teach them, guide them, lead them. But when we attempt to live for them and make them into ultimate things, that's when we lose sight of our higher dependency.

Being a parent is a call to higher dependency.

I read what Tim Keller writes and I think about my brief "parenting" stint and I think about how hard that is. Every single second is spent pouring into your kids. Pretty much everything you do affects them in one way or another. You can forget about everything else.. and the only reasons could just be that you're busy and you're tired.

So how do you do it? How do you stay dependent and humble? How do you not make the caring of these awesome, beautiful, God given creatures your identity? How do you remember in the chaos that you're ultimately not in control?

And my good friend Todd says this:

Walk with God and love your kids and God will make it happen.

It's as simple as that, isn't it?