Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Biblical Manhood, Sports and Self-Control


On Sunday night I took a layer of skin off my left leg while sliding into second base. I was clearly...clearly safe but the umpire while standing behind home plate declared me out. The same umpire thought the tie went to the fielder when I beat a grounder to first but was declared out. I played third base (if you can call it "played") and committed more errors in 3 innings than a good pro does in a 162 game season. Frustration...disgust...excuses...

Sports have been a sanctifying instrument in my life because it has often revealed to me sinful areas of my heart--pride, lack of self-control, selfishness, identity in sports not in God...

I found the following words from Jeff Robinson very helpful, inspiring and encouraging as he reflects on manhood, self control, his son's little league and last week's British Open.

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Young men: Learn self-control
Jeff Robinson (July 21, 2009)

Two sports events this weekend, one seen across the globe, the other far more mundane, provided me with an opportunity to teach my six-year-old son a crucial lesson in biblical manhood.

The first event unfolded Saturday on a little league diamond near our home in a game involving my son. After getting a hit in each of his first two at-bats, Jeffrey grounded out to first base. He stroked a nice, hard grounder, but the first baseman made an even nicer play. A runner moved from second to third base on the play and thus it was, in baseball parlance, a productive out.

As his coach, I was pleased. As his father, I was less pleased, however, by what happened next: Jeffrey threw his batting helmet in anger. In the dugout, he knocked around some equipment and even gave his glove a brisk toss. Now, this is certainly no way to treat your equipment, but that is beside the point. As the team went back into the field for the next inning, I kept Jeffrey in the dugout with me. "You're out of the game for the rest of the day," I told him. Needless to say, he wasn't thrilled.

After the game, we talked about sportsmanship and self-control and idolatry and doing all things to the glory of God. We talked about the humbling nature of baseball, how even Ted Williams failed seven times in 10, how you must put failure behind you and how the game parallels the Christian pilgrimage. Self-control and learning how to fail gracefully are critical lessons for future men to learn; they are a critical part of manhood, a critical part of a man's ability to lead well. "A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls." (Prov. 25:28) Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:23) and Paul urged young men to be self-controlled (Titus 2:6). I want my sons to learn this lesson in baseball, where the damage is limited to a scarred helmet, rather than in real life, where the damage can be catastrophic and eternal.

Event No. 2, the British Open golf tournament that concluded Sunday, provided the perfect illustration for a lesson on self-control. At 59, Tom Watson missed becoming the oldest golfer to win the esteemed tournament when he left short an eight-foot putt on hole No. 18. Watson had made that putt ten thousand times before, but this time he missed and lost a four-hole playoff to Stewart Cink. In overtime, Watson's game fell apart. On the third hole, he drove deep into the rough while Cink, who spoke afterward of his Christian faith as a steadying reality, salted away his first victory in a major tournament.

It was Watson's calm demeanor over those final five holes that provided the lesson. After misfiring on one of the playoff holes, Watson strode calmly down the fairway, doffed his hat and smiled to the cheering gallery. When he missed the putt that would have clinched the win, there was no club throwing, no foul language, no fit of anger, only a slight grimace and a pained smile. In the end, Watson stood at Cink's side, wearing a smile, graciously extolling his younger opponent before the media. Pure class. Real manhood.

Life in a fallen world is fraught with losing, for biblical Christianity is a perennial competition between two factions warring for supremacy over the human heart. God warns us about this reality early in His Word (Gen. 3:15a). All men fail on some level and even the most sanctified man will emerge from this war with scars from battles lost and battles won. My son must learn to deal with victory and defeat now. I pray that these lessons will make clear his desperate need for the One Victorious Man, the One who won the war over sin and death and yes, even helmet throwing and glove kicking, once and for all (Rom. 5:19).

(HT - Tim Challies)

1 comment:

Seamus O Riley said...

Thanks for a great article.

Peter Hyatt