Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Perfect Games and Imperfect People

by Dr. Bill Ireland

The event that dominated sports news a few weeks ago was a blown call by an umpire that cost Detroit Tigers’ pitcher, Armando Galarraga, a perfect game. On what would have been the final out, umpire Jim Joyce mistakenly called a base runner for the Cleveland Indians safe while replays showed he was clearly out. Such is the nature of baseball that such calls on the field can’t be reversed (unlike professional football where instant replay can be utilized or referees can pick up a penalty flag and say there was “no call”). To his credit, umpire Jim Joyce took responsibility for his mistake and apologized. As well, Armando Galarraga, kept himself under control and didn’t go off on a tear and berate Joyce. He kept his composure, finished the game, and just showed a ton of class.

This unfortunate incident will result in this game being marked with an asterisk. It was a perfect game in all respects except for an umpire’s blown call. Jim Joyce, by all reports one of the most respected umpires in the game, will be forever remembered as the one who cost a pitcher a perfect game. Sadly, this event will be welded to his name and will likely be featured in his obituary some day.

Scripture offers us numerous examples of people whose lives are often summed up by single events. Judas is forever known as the betrayer, Thomas was the doubter, and Peter was the denier. While these descriptions capture significant moments in their lives, I want to remind you that tag lines such as these never tell the whole story. Yes, Judas betrayed Jesus but we have no real clue as to his motives. And, for three years, he followed Jesus faithfully and endured the same hardships as the other disciples. Thomas had his doubts, but who among us hasn’t? On other occasions, Thomas was clear-eyed about the rigors of following Jesus and was willing to embrace its challenges. Peter failed Jesus when his master most needed a friend. But at times lived up to his billing as the “rock” Jesus said he was. Peter is like most of us—capable of significant insight and achievement but also terribly fallible.

What I’m driving at is this: there’s always more to us than our worst moments. For better or worse, our lives are a tapestry in which the threads of failure and success are tied together. One thread by itself does not a tapestry make. The moments we wish we could forget will always be with us, but they don’t have to define us.

Bill Ireland is the pastor of Ardmore Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC. This article originally appeared in their church newsletter, The Ardmore Announcer.

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