Our culture increasingly seems obsessed with telling kids how wonderful they are and with protecting what some apparently think are their fragile self-images. They must always think of themselves as winners. Some say that in order to protect that idea perhaps we shouldn’t even keep score in games, for if you keep score someone is sure to be a loser. Yet in baseball there is no hiding from raw reality. Pulitzer Prize winning writer John Updike said that baseball is “an essentially lonely game.” When a player steps up to take his turn at bat there is no flying under the radar, no hiding, no ducking the spotlight. Baseball is a team game but it is played as a continuing series of individual events. Every at bat, every play in the field requires individuals to perform and will result in either undeniable failure or undeniable success. When one has struck out there is no hiding the failure. No one can deny it. In that fact baseball is good practice for reality, for all of us are going to experience wins and losses in life. As a parent I needed to teach my children that their value and identity was not a function of their success or failure in any given endeavor. In baseball one must learn that same truth. One must learn to deal with failures, not be defeated by them and move on.
Hebrews 10:36 says, “You need to persevere.” Proverbs 24:16 says, “though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.” Perseverance is essential to the Christian life. We are fallible beings. We will fail. There will be times in our lives when we live in ways that are far from what we would wish, when we know we have fallen short of God’s will. In fact, we never fully fulfill God’s will. When have we ever loved enough or served enough or been holy enough? Most of us are aware of our shortcomings every day. Yet, like the baseball player, we must put that behind us and focus on the next “at bat.” We must persist in seeking to do God’s will, even if our efforts prove imperfect. The major leaguer who has just gotten exactly zero hits in four at bats in a game doesn’t give up. He turns the page knowing that tomorrow is another game. And that is what we must do as well as we follow Christ day after day.