Learning Life’s Lessons

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

The baseball world was shocked this past Wednesday when a historical moment turned into a hysterical moment.

During the last month baseball had witnessed two perfect games. That has never before happened in the history of baseball in one month. On Wednesday we almost had a third perfect game. It involved the Detroit Tigers, who have never had the opportunity to celebrate a perfect game.

Detroit has undergone some tough times. The automobile industry there has been in trouble. All the sports teams have really struggled. The former Mayor is serving a jail term. It is a tough place to live right now.

Some of that could have changed on Wednesday when Armando Galarraga was on the mound and had retired 26 consecutive Cleveland Indian baseball batters. There were two outs in the bottom of the ninth and he faced Jason Donald.

Donald hit a grounder that first baseman Miguel Cabrera fielded and threw to Galarraga who was covering first base. Everybody saw that the runner was out. A perfect game would go in the books. It was time to celebrate.

But umpire Jim Joyce gave the safe sign. The instant-replay showed he was wrong, but he was the umpire. It would be registered as a base hit and the perfect game was no longer perfect.

It was a very, very unfortunate situation. I think we can learn some lessons from it.

Lesson One

Life isn’t always fair. A bad call by the umpire should never have happened in that situation. Even the runner Jason Donald knew that if the play was really close, he would be called out. While baseball says the tie goes to the runner – on the last out of a perfect game the tie goes to the pitcher. Sometimes a bang-bang play can be disputed. This play only had one bang – Galarraga’s right foot stepping on first base.

Each of us has experienced something that wasn’t really fair. It could have and should have gone a different way. Usually the tough bumps we get in life are caused by some foolish thing that we do or a mistake by another person. It is not fair that Galarraga did not get a perfect game – but that unfairness is directly linked to a human mistake. Life isn’t always fair.

Lesson Two

–We can react positively when life deals us a tough blow. The response by Galarraga was really amazing. He didn’t get in the umpire’s face and start complaining about the call. The cameras clearly showed that he simply smiled and went back to the mound to retire Trevor Crowe for the last out. Even the umpire Jim Joyce said he could not believe the reaction of Galarraga.

When something unfair happens to us in life – we have a choice. We can make our own lives miserable and create misery for everybody around us. A much better choice is to proceed on with the next event of life and do our job effectively there. It is not fair that we have to be placed in this situation – but when we are there we must react positively. If the event cannot be changed, let’s go on to the next event.

Lesson Three

Everybody makes mistakes. The umpire was Jim Joyce. He is 54-years-old and has been a full-time Major League umpire for over twenty years. He makes lots of money umpiring. He has worked two World Series, eleven other playoff games and a pair of All-Star games. He would be a person who was very unlikely to make a mistake – yet he did.

The Bible teaches us very clearly that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3: 23) While many people strive to live a perfect life – we are sinners and we make mistakes. Sin, like mistakes, is a reality of our nature.

Lesson Four

We can confess when we have made a mistake. Jim Joyce looked at the replay and saw that he had made a mistake. He said, “It was the biggest call of my career, and I blew it. I just cost that kid a perfect game. I thought he had beat the throw, until I saw the replay.”

Joyce went on to indicate that if he had been Galarraga, he would have been in the face of the umpire and really caused a lot of trouble. He felt badly about the situation, and I understand made a phone call to Galarraga and asked him to forgive him.

The good news about life is that when we make mistakes and sin, we have a choice to either try to justify what we did or confess that we were wrong. The replay camera helped show that the umpire was wrong. God’s replay camera is always correct. We will never fool Him.

The Bible is very clear that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1: 9) When we make a mistake we need to confess.

Lesson Five

Don’t give a bad situation an opportunity to find a permanent home in our minds and actions. It would be easy for Armando Galarraga to have dealt with that situation poorly. He could have thrown a close inside pitch at the next batter. He could have thrown a temper tantrum. He could have protested in a variety of ways. Instead, he went about the business of completing his purpose of pitching. He got the final out.

God has a divine purpose for each of us. Wrongs that have been done to us can find a home in our minds and in our actions and continually raise their ugly heads for days or months or years to come. God’s greatest desire is to cleanse our thinking and our actions from those mistakes that we have made or have been made against us – and to go on to the next task that He has for us and fulfill His purpose for our lives.

Lesson Six

I understand that the Baseball Commissioner, Bud Selig, has the authority to reverse the decision and reinstate the perfect game. I don’t know how that will ever play out. I understand that he is the only person who can rectify the mistake.

I am glad that God is the only person who can rectify the mistakes in our lives. He won’t even have to think about forgiving us and reinstating us. He has already done that in the cross and resurrection. All we can do is accept it. He has forgiven us and has already encouraged us “to move on toward perfection.” (Matthew 5: 48)

These are just a few life lessons. I hope we all learn them and live them well.

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