Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.
There is no joy in Mudville (aka Philadelphia) today because the mighty Ryan Howard has struck out. But unlike Casey, he didn’t even swing. He just stood there looking. Low and outside. Strike three.
And thus ended the Phillies’ run toward the National League Championship and a spot in the World Series. This team was so good that sportswriters and fans concluded victory was not only expected, it was a sure thing.
Yet, it was not to be.
I’m no baseball fan and don’t care much if the Phillies win or lose but I can’t help notice that fingers are being pointed. Heads are being hunted. And the person in the crosshairs right now is Ryan Howard. Here’s what folk are saying about him:
“Got what he deserved”
“He’s primarily to blame for the NLCS loss to the Giants.”
It makes sense that when you get paid millions of dollars to hit baseballs you better do that—especially when the stakes are so high. And when you don’t there are consequences.
Yet the fate of one man’s reputation was decided in a crucial moment. His worth and perceived value completely contingent on his performance. Hit a home run, we’ll throw you a parade. Strike out and we’ll run you out of town. It’s like this with any athlete.
“We’ll love you if…”
“We’ll cheer for you if…”
“We’ll praise you if…”
But if they fail, falter, fumble mess up or let us down—watch out! Cheers become boos. Esteem turns to disdain disdain. Adoring proclamations morph into scathing criticisms.
Oh how fickle our affections. Not just for sports figures, but for one another as well. Our actions—if not our words as well—say, “If you earn my love/affection/devotion/dedication/respect, I’ll give it to you.”
It's no wonder we have such a hard time comprehending the true meaning of grace.
Grace is God’s unmerited love for us. He offers this gift to ANYONE who accepts it, without ANY strings attached. Grace costs nothing for the recipient, but everything for the giver.
Philip Yancey says, “Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more and there is nothing we can do to make Him love us less.”
Nothing. At. All.
The idea that God’s love comes to us free of charge seems to go against every fiber in our beings. We’ve been brought up in an environment of ungrace and every day we breathe its polluted aroma. Everything and everyone around us expects us to earn our favor.
Grace is illogical. It’s counterintuitive. It’s radical. And it simply doesn’t add up. That’s what makes it so amazing!
The apostle Paul says:
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God..” (Romans 5:1-2)
It doesn’t matter how often we strike out, screw up or miss the mark. In Jesus, there is NO condemnation. Ever.
That’s good news for you and me. And it’s good news for Ryan Howard, too. Something tells me he could use some loving right about now.