Losing Our Perfect Games

Published on June 4, 2010 by CT in Blog, Thoughts


If you are a Major League pitcher, you dream about pitching in the World Series, winning the Cy Young, or pitching a perfect game.  That’s the pinnacle of your career.  That’s your ticket to the history books; perhaps even to the Hall of Fame.

If you follow baseball at all, or if you witnessed Detroit radio host Paul Edwards’ near-heart attack on Twitter on Wednesday night, you now know the names Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga.  Galarraga, a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, threw a perfect game this week in front of a home crowd.  The only problem was that Joyce, a 22-year veteran umpire, blew a ninth inning, 2-out call at first base, robbing Galarraga of his place in the history books.

Galarraga reached his pinnacle and had the ground drop out beneath him.  How did he respond?  By shouting (a baseball pastime)?  By pouting (a pro athlete pastime)?  No, he simply smiled.  A smile that said:  “You sure about that?  OK, that’s OK.”

We all have these pinnacles.  Writers may long to be on the New York Times Bestseller’s List.  Pastors may long to build a megachurch or make the national conference circuit.  Businessmen or businesswomen may long for the C-level position.   Bloggers may long for that one web-changing, viral post.  We ply our trades, hoping for the big break that may or may not come, believing that our lives will count for something more if our break does happen.

These pinnacles aren’t good or evil in and of themselves.  But the longing is what proves dangerous.  The longing is the pathway to many snares that keep us from keeping God at the center of our lives.

Through this weekend, you’ll hear media members use words like “grace” to describe Galarraga’s response to a bum deal.  And he was gracious in his reaction; he went back to the mound and got the next batter out, headed to the locker room without a complaint, and acknowledged to reporters that people make mistakes sometimes.

We could argue whether or not this is actually grace.  But grace isn’t what struck me in this instance.  The picture I’ll remember from that night in Detroit is a look on a man’s face that said the pinnacle was a mirage.

I don’t know Galarraga or his motivations, so I won’t put words in his mouth or ideas in his head.  But I will take the steadfastness of his countenance and hold it up as an emblem of contentment in the midst of great disappointment, and say this is an image we should cultivate in our spirits.  This kind of contentment believes that life is a vapor, that we are to be anxious about nothing because our Father owns everything, and that our God is sovereign over the levity of abundance and the thickness of grief in our lives.

What happens when the transmission falls out of our car on the highway and our checking account is floating just north of zero?  What happens when we don’t get the promotion we thought we needed or the job we thought we deserved?  What happens when our dreams for our lives don’t actually come true?

Do we shout at God in prayer? Do we spiritually pout in our own subtle ways?  Do we ponder what could have been, or what may be, rather than living out of the reality of the gospel in the midst of our daily lives?

May we all lose our perfect games and find that they were a mirage in the first place.  May we look at the greatest success we can imagine on earth and count it loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus.  And may we lay our greatest hopes and dreams at the feet of the cross, gazing upon the steadfast countenance of our risen Savior, and join the psalmist in saying, “Whom have I in heaven but you?  There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25).  It is then we lose our perfect game and gain our greatest treasure.

Question:  What is your own version of the perfect game in your life?

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/lauradroege lauradroege

    My version is getting my novel published. That's been the desire of my heart for years, and I'm facing the fact that I may or may not get this desire fulfilled. I may not be successful in getting an agent, even getting the full manuscript on their desk, or even a few pages. It's hard to think about and I grow discouraged. And this is even before I've queried anyone!

    But this post reminded me that often, my discouragement comes from desiring publication above God. My writing can easily become an idol to me. (I've been known to ignore my family, and my children complain that I haven't "played with us in YEARS!!" Yikes.) So I have to refocus on Christ, count publication/writing/whatever as loss compared with knowing Him, and seek out his direction for my writing.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.
    My recent post “I don’t pray for success…I pray for faithfulness”

  • http://www.marketinginprogress.com Brett Duncan

    I think there's even more to the story than this. Not sure if you saw umpire Jim Joyce's reaction, but he admitted to botching the call on camera. That is also a different kind of grace, I would say. He fessed up to screwing up, and it makes you feel horrible for the guy. But I think we all expected him to do the typical umpire thing, which is admit nothing, and ask for no form of forgiveness.

    Both are great examples of the right thing to do in their situations (minus Joyce's cussing, I guess).

    My recent post How to Create Your Main Objective Every Day

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

      Brett, you're right on. I did catch Joyce's response as well, and it was cool to see how he handled the situation as well. Joyce seemed to put Galarraga first, and Galarraga seemed to put dignity (or perhaps respect for Joyce) first as well. I may be drawing too much from this situation, but their reactions also paint a wonderful picture of mutual submission that we strive for in the church. Submission to God (and His perspective) leads to respect and submission to one another. Thanks for pointing this part of the story out…

  • http://www.christiancognition.blogspot.com Mike

    My marriage. It's far different from what I expected it to look like after 9 years, and not at all what I had hoped. Yet, I remind myself to press on amidst the great disappointment.

    (That story has been all the buzz on the news here in the Detroit area. I'm so glad we were able to do something with dignity, though!)
    My recent post IF MY WORDS ABIDE IN YOU (John Piper):

  • Pingback: Polishing Turds, Losing Perfect Games and Prove It Week | MarketingInProgress.com

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/5minutesplease 5MinutesPlease

    Beautiful. And more beautiful thoughts from both Brett and you.

  • http://www.bing.com/ Katty

    I bow down humbly in the persecne of such greatness.