Thursday, August 26, 2010

Flashback Friday: Five Talent Player

***Originally posted February 17, 2010. Reposted in response to Glen Coffee's decision to forgo an NFL career to pursue ministry, a decision similar to Grant Desme's below.***

Growing up religious, I always found it curious a "plus" baseball player is called a "five-tool" player given the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25. It was the one with five talents that was given five more for putting his talents to use, pleasing his master. Of course we get the common usage for our talents from this parable even though a "talent" is a unit of currency.

Grant Desme is a five-tool, plus prospect for the Oakland A's. Or at least, he was before he decided to give up the game to enter the priesthood. In his defense he said, "But I had to get down to the bottom of things, to what was good in my life, what I wanted to do with my life. Baseball is a good thing, but that felt selfish of me when I felt that God was calling me more. ... I love the game, but I’m going to aspire to higher things."

He didn't catch much criticism even if his decision wasn't understood by all. One who not only understands, but also relates is former Olympic speed skater Kirstin Holum. After competing in 1998, she hung up her skates and joined a convent. While you may picture a nun's habit, you may not be able to picture a former Olympian in the inner city reaching out to gang-bangers.

While I admire the hands-on calling of a Religious Order, I don't think you need to put on vestments to participate in ministry. Like the parable cited above, God gives us talents to be put to use for His glory. I think turning your back on a natural talent like athleticism is akin to burying your talents. (Recognizing that not all skills are talents, and we are all given as many or as few as our faith allows)

On the opposite end of the spectrum is last year's National League Rookie of the Year, Chris Coghlan. "Everybody has different callings. Everybody has different blessings and different talents. For me, I believe my calling is to continue playing baseball. It's a platform to reach out to other people." Sounds very Tim Tebow. (Sorry, couldn't resist) But he's right. God gives us not only the talents, but the opportunities. One of my best friends always says, "there's no such thing as luck in the Kingdom of God." The traditional adage is that "luck is when preparation and opportunity meet." The two are perfectly compatible. We should approach our jobs, our relationships, our families with the faith that each are platforms through which we should live and share our faith. The opportunity that meets our preparation.

Even Paul, who was far from being considered athletic, approached his ministry in this way.

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
" (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

This scripture is often applied to spiritual discipline and can be abused to justify a list of to-dos. But a better way of looking at it is from the perspective of the Christian athlete. Train (invest your talents) so that you may win (gain five more). We may not all be plus, but we can all be five-talent players.

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