Let the Weak Say I Am Strong
When I started this series of rants against the evil aspects of sports culture, I was working under the assumption that the culture only accepts those who have a moderate amount of physical ability and success. It was a false assumption. I have been made aware that many successful athletes were at one time or another viewed as weak and unsuccessful. Those who were the weak were strong.
I started this series telling about my Pee Wee baseball experience. I hit the ball twice. One was a foul. The other went straight to first base. I struck out every other time. I saw myself as being weak, uncoordinated, and unsuccessful. Yet, even some professional ball players have horrible batting seasons. Bob Buhl of the Braves was 0-for-70 (.089 career average). Jon Lester of the Cubs was 0-for-68 (.015 career average). Joey Hamilton of the Padres was 0-for-57 (.127 career average). Striking out is normal. Failure is normal in baseball. How players deal with failure reveals whether they are truly weak or strong. Consider Pete Rose, who did not let his small stature, or the opinions of others paralyze him.
Rose was rejected as a Big League prospect… “Too small,” most wrote. “No power,” still others added. “He’ll never throw anybody out with that arm,” was another judgment.1
“His hustle, his good-natured brashness and his aggressive bat were making friends. He won ‘Rookie of the Year’ honors with a .273 batting average over 157 games.”2
Although I used to view my sports experiences in a negative light, they had a few positive effects on my life. First, I kept active. I kept exercising. I desperately wanted to catch up to my peers. Although I never caught up in high school, I did eventually become strong for my size. At forty-four years of age, I can do twenty-five push-ups, ten pull-ups, and thirty sit-ups. I am a lean 140 lbs. Many my age are neither active, nor an ideal weight. I may have ended up the same if not for the desire to compete that sports generated deep in my psyche.
The second benefit I received was understanding the role of suffering in the Christian life. Having been cursed out by parents, harassed by jocks, and seemingly forsaken by my dad, I can better understand my Lord and Savior who was rejected by his own people, harassed by the religious leaders, and temporarily forsaken by His Father. Those who reject suffering in favor of comfortable lives will suffer. Those who endure suffering with patience, will enjoy eternal comfort.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. -James 1:2-4
How should we redeem sports such that the weak can endure mistreatment and accept failure with courage? Let sports serve as a discipling tool showing a powerful gospel illustration of spiritual warfare. “According to Paul, if athletes agonize to fulfill determined temporal goals, how much more should he and others agonize in gospel ministry? [Both the athlete and the soldier] must endure hardship and agonizingly strive in preparation and disciplined training for the conflict.”3
Those who are weak must be told that failures, trials, and even persecutions will come. When they do come, the weak need encouragement to endure, and to press on towards the goal, whether the goal is winning a game, or the resurrection to come. Let the weak press on with a gospel-fed tenacity, and with a strength that is not their own, but is found in Christ.