When I was knee high to a tsetse fly, I fell in love with baseball. There were a lot of reasons for that (which I won’t go into here), but it’s been a lifelong, love-hate relationship with what used to be the national pastime. When I was a kid, I built a makeshift wall of cement blocks and would stand for hours throwing a rubber-coated baseball against it so it would rebound in different directions back to my general vicinity.
I was too shy to try out for an organized team until I was fourteen. By that time, my love for the game (and the insistence of my friends) made it impossible for me to refuse anymore. I landed on one of the local Babe Ruth League teams (the Giants as I recall) and was an instant hit—the latest phenom—a big fish in a little pond—a star among…well…mostly less than all-stars (let’s just say, none of us were major league ready). We had a great time, though, and (as far as my baseball career goes) those were my glory days.
During the summers of my fourteenth and fifteenth years on this planet, I batted cleanup. For all you non-fans, that meant I was the go-to guy—the RBI man—the power hitter—the centerpiece of the line-up. I really thought I was something.
But then an evil thing happened. I turned sixteen and had to move on to play Junior Legion baseball. All of a sudden, everyone around me was a Babe Ruth League all-star. I was no longer cleanup worthy. I did bat in the leadoff position, but only because I could run fast and steal a few bases. I couldn’t hit a lick against the big boys. I could now drive a car but could no longer drive in runs. I was a has-been. By the time I was nineteen, my baseball career was over, and dreams of playing for my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates were a faded memory.
That extended experience, like a lot of others, prepared me for adult life. I have now been a pastor for thirty-five years. And guess what… As a pastor I could easily consider myself a big fish in a little pond and a theological star among people with a little less theological training. I don’t, however, because I never made it to the big leagues. I never played for the Pirates (or even the Durham Bulls). When I arrive early for services on Sunday, I’m not looking to tell someone else what to do or even what to believe. I’m usually sweeping the walks, adjusting the heat, or supplying the restrooms with toilet paper.
When it comes to serving Jesus, none of us are cleanup hitters. He’s the cleanup guy. We all do our parts, and we’re all important to the lineup. The cool thing is, none of us has to sit the bench.