Those who know me know that I’m not much of a sports fan. The following story is made up for its allegorical value.
I was converted to baseball by my baseball hero. To watch him in action was simply incredible. And watch him I did. At first I watched him play ball from time to time and simply shook my head in amazement. Then I began to watch him more regularly and a love of the game began to grow in me. Eventually I got to the point where I rarely missed a game in which my hero played. Finally, I decided to play some baseball myself.
There were community baseball leagues everywhere and I had no trouble finding one to join. It was a ragtag team, I admit. No uniforms, varying levels of commitment to the game, some players played better than others, some tried hard and others didn’t try at all. I came into the game slowly, unsure of myself. My team played virtually every week. I suppose I played an average of once a month at first and then later I began playing every week, because always before my imagination was the image of my baseball hero whom, I soon realized, I wanted to imitate. Not that I could ever be him, but I could become a ball player in my own right.
I was foggy on the rules of the game at first, but my teammates helped me. Soon enough I found a comfortable place on the team. I didn’t feel like I was looking much like my baseball hero, though. I struck out nearly always. I decided to do something about it. The first thing I did was pay close attention to the uniform my hero wore. I bought one as close to it as I could find. Some on my team thought I was going over the top but I didn’t really care. I wanted to imitate my hero. Still, I struck out as much as before.
So I watched how he ran the bases and noticed that when he slid into base he went headfirst not feet first. So I did that, but I noticed little improvement in my game. So I watched how my hero held his bat and imitated him. Still, very little improvement for me. I watched and watched and every week during the game I attempted to imitate my hero for the entire hour or two that I played. I became frustrated enough that I decided to attempt to see my hero and ask for help. Amazingly, I succeeded. After a game I asked if I could see him and was allowed into the locker room.
I explained my dilemma to him and he smiled warmly. He asked me how much I practiced. Proudly I told him that I practiced every week. But that isn’t what he meant. Those are games, he explained, not practice. What, he wanted to know, did I do to improve my game during the week between games? I had to admit that I did nothing at all. Then he explained to me his regimen for every day. He went to the batting cages and practiced hitting every day. He jogged six miles every day. He watched his diet and kept a close eye on his weight every day. He got a full eight hours of sleep every night. He studied other ball players constantly. In short, he lived and breathed baseball 24-hours a day, every day. That’s how he could play the way he played. Without it, he would be just like everyone else.
I stood there before him, stunned. I was ready to commit to an hour or two a week. Perhaps I could fit in another hour on Wednesday nights. But 24-hours a day, every day? Suddenly I understood why the rich young ruler walked sorrowfully away from Jesus. That much commitment is simply too much to ask. Isn’t it?