Monday, August 06, 2007

Going the Distance

Baseball has gotten a lot of attention over the past week, between A-Rod and Glavine reaching milestones in their careers, and Bonds reaching Hank Aaron's home run record. (I'll refrain from any comments about steroids.)

While these events have been broadcast ad nauseum in the media, I was more excited by last week's induction of Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Both men are known for their commitments to the game and to their teams (the Orioles and the Padres, respectively), as well as for their character on and off the field. In an era where players are traded or sign as free agents with multiple teams throughout their careers, Ripken and Gwynn are somewhat of a rarity in that they spent decades with the same team.

Ripken is especially noted for his longevity, evidenced by his breaking Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games played. I remember quite well where I was when game #2,131 went in the books. I was in Nashville, visiting a college roommate who just happened to be from Baltimore, so naturally we watched the game. When the game was official, the crowd erupted as Ripken stepped onto the field and received a long, uninterrupted ovation. He wasn't getting applause for breaking a home run record, or for pitching a no-hitter, or for driving in the winning run in the World Series. Rather, he was a man recognized and applauded for showing up for work day in and day out, whether he "felt" like it or not.

I think that longevity and dedication are attributes that, sadly, do not get the recognition they deserve. We are quick to laud the athlete who does something "flashy". Even those who do something negative often get more press and attention than those who do their job without complaint and without giving up.

Failing to recognize faithfulness is not limited to the sports world, however; it takes place in the church as well. I am part of a church that has a very large addiction recovery ministry, and many of the men and women who have been saved through that ministry have graciously shared their stories at various church services. While I am thankful for these stories and being able to witness such powerful evidence of God at work in people's lives, I sometimes wonder if we overlook people whose stories of conversion aren't so dramatic.

There are plenty of people in our churches who, while they may not struggle with alcohol or drug abuse, have their own stories of God's faithfulness. Although I am moved by those dramatic testimonies, I am often more encouraged by hearing stories of the faith of "ordinary" people, like the husband who stays by his wife's side even Alzheimer's robs her of her ability to remember sho he is, or the family that pulls together when the breadwinner loses his job, or the friends who help each other move and who comfort each other over broken hearts. I believe that their dedication can likewise be a powerful testimony to God at work in them.

Many times it is those who do something dramatic who get the recognition, and often they should. But let me challenge us to look around and try to find someone who is not doing anything that they may consider to be special, but rather who is simply following God day in and day out, through the ups and downs of life. Take some time this week to encourage these dedicated people in your life, and let them know that their lives are powerful testimonies.

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