Josh Hamilton put on a show in the Homerun Derby at Yankee Stadium Monday night. But you have to know his story to understand what made it so exhilarating: a life and talent marred by drug abuse only to find faith in Christ, clean up his life, and climb back to the top of his sport.
I'm glad I was able to watch it. I'll remember it alongside other meaningful baseball memories (Cal Ripken's 2,131st consecutive game, the Red Sox '04 comeback, even Jon Lester's no-hitter this year, etc.). Every homerun he hit felt like he was beating back evil, cynicism, and the powers that would enslave us all. I know that I didn't keep dry eyes through the whole event -- it, uhhh, got a little dusty in my living room that night. ;)
Peter Gammons put it in perspective, as he so often does so well, telling us that out of the ash heap heroes emerge:
Baseball has always been able to turn the page because of someone and something always grew up out of the rubble, and Josh Hamilton began the process of turning the page on Monday night. It is unbelievable what he has done, and now the nation knows it.
(On Monday we watched) 55,000 New Yorkers standing and chanting Josh Hamilton's name. We are reminded that baseball can help us remember what we stand for, not against, what we believe, not what we fear, and that while we learn from the past, what we all want is to open the door to the future.
Or, as Rick Reilly said, it was a lousy night to be an atheist.
A few months ago I mourned the eclipse of the Great American hero. Some of you had some well-wishing sentiments, but I was genuinely disheartened about this. And I clarified my dismay:
Still, despite each of you guys' well-put words, I still find myself dejected over this sad state of affairs. It isn't because I just realized that there is hopelessness where I had always expected there to be hope. I think it is more that I wish to see my faith played out on that stage of public celebrity. I want to see some light shine through. I want to see some evidence in the world -- that I can point to... that I can show to others -- to say, "Here is where the Reign of God is breaking in & making a difference. Here is where the beacon on a hill is shining."
I know that Christ has forgiven us of all our sins (lowercase-"s"). But what about the (uppercase-"S") Sin problem here, while we're still on Earth? The cross has salvific power for eternity, and Scripture is witness to that. But also, the logic of the cross overcomes the problem in the here & now of the power of Satan in our lives. It's not enough to just have our record expunged. I want my heart washed clean, too.
And, so, it would be marvelous to find more examples, that are in public view, of humanity overcoming. I know some of you are still going to argue, "You're looking in the wrong place." I don't think I am. I'm just looking for that city on a hill. And I suppose my point in all this is that it's hard to find in celebrity. I want to be able to point at someone and say, "See, Christ works even THERE!"
If it is true that "to write is to pray," then I praise God for answering in such a fun way! I have my hero, and he is bonafide.
Thank God for heroes.
I like to imagine that we will have a "Josh Hamilton Day" in Heaven. And I can just imagine us on that day, pumping our fists to the rafters as we joyously sing "This is How We Overcome." That's something worth looking forward to.