One strike away, twice

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One strike away, twice

October 28, 2011 -

It has not been easy to be a Texas Rangers fan.  Since our inception, we have lost more games than any team in baseball.  All that was about to change last night–we were one strike from a World Series title, only to give up the tying runs.  Then we were once again one strike away, only to lose the game.

If the Rangers lose Game 7 of the Series tonight, their collapse will go down in history as one of the worst ever.  Fans who would have been celebrating their world championship will ridicule them as losers.  But if they win tonight all will be forgiven, the previous evening’s frustrations quickly forgotten.

That’s how the world measures success–you either win or you’re a loser.  Growing up, that was my view of life as well.  An A on the test wasn’t good enough if A+ was possible.  You are what you do.  Performance-based perfectionism ruled my life.

Texas Rangers relief pitcher Scott Feldman watches the game tieing single by Lance Berkman, World Series Game 6 in St. Louis, Oct. 27, 2011 (Credit: Reuters/Jim Young)A story by the great preacher Fred Craddock helped to liberate me from this prison of impossible expectations.  A retired professor at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Fred is one of the best story-tellers I’ve ever heard.  I will never forget hearing him tell of a trip to the Smoky Mountains and its significance for his life.

He and his wife were sitting in a restaurant waiting for their food when an elderly gentleman happened by.  He stopped at their table and asked if they were having a good time.  They said that they were.  He asked what they did for a living; Fred told the man that he taught preachers.  “You teach preachers!” the man exclaimed.  “I’ve got a story about a preacher.”  With that he pulled out a chair and sat down at their table.

The man began: “I grew up in these hills.  My mother wasn’t married.  The reproach that fell on her fell on me.  The kids had a name for me, and it hurt badly.  We’d come into town for supplies and people would stand and stare, trying to guess my father.  It was a hard time.

“Then the town church got a new preacher.  He attracted me and frightened me at the same time.  Tall, stove-pipe hat, stone jaw, voice that thundered.  I’d slip into church after the service began, sit on the back pew, and slip back out before the benediction.  I didn’t want anyone to see me and say, ‘What’s a boy like you doing in church?’

One Sunday morning, for some reason I couldn’t get out of church in time.  I was scared to death that someone was going to see me and scold me for coming to their church.  Then I felt a hand on my shoulder.  I turned, and there was that stove-pipe hat and stone jaw.  The preacher stared down at me and said in a loud voice, ‘Boy, I know who your Daddy is.’

“I wanted to crawl under the pew, but his firm hand gripped my shoulder.  He said, ‘Boy, you’re a child of . . . you’re a child of . . .’  Then he smiled and said, ‘You’re a child of the King.  Go claim your inheritance.’

Fred stared at the elderly man for a moment, then asked his name.  “Ben Hooper” was the reply.  Then Fred remembered his father telling him about the time when, for two terms, the people of Tennessee elected an illegitimate governor named Ben Hooper.

If Jesus is your Lord, you’re a child of the King.  Go claim your inheritance today.

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