On Adam Greenburg
I mentioned yesterday the way the Miami Marlins gave Adam Greenburg an “at bat” in the last week of the season during a meaningless game against the New York Mets. The start of the story was how Greenburg had his first at bat back in July of 2005. He was with the Chicago Cubs at the time. On the very first pitch he faced he took a 92 mile-per-hour fastball off his head. He was removed from the game and, for two years, suffered debilitating physical after-effects. His career seemed over but he struggled on, trying to get back to the majors.
Somewhere along the line a movement called “One at bat” was started and an online campaign begun to see if they could get the Cubs, or another team, to give the man one more chance. Years went by and Greenburg married, started a business and continued to try and keep his skills up. Finally, this year, the Marlins, oddly enough the team whose pitcher had beaned him, signed him to a one-game contract to give him the one at bat.
As the game approached interest in his appearance peaked and much of the baseball world was following the story. Unfortunately Greenburg came up against R.A. Dickey, a 20-game winner and potential Cy Young candidate and struck out. As much as we could have yearned for a “happy ending” of him getting a hit, it was not to be.
Now I don’t know Greenburg or anything about him so the following comments are not directly about his situation. But I think his experience is not unlike what could happen to any of us. There could be something we hope for, pray for, work for. We feel we really want it, we may even feel it is God’s will for us. We could, like Greenburg, work seven hard years to get what we want. We could be like Jacob in the Bible who, after seven hard years working to earn Rachel as a bride, lifts the veil of his new wife for the first kiss and finds Leah staring back at him. How could God let this happen? What went wrong?
We Christians tend to make excuses for God in such settings. Perhaps Greenburg’s prayers were not answered because he is not a believer. (He is Jewish.) Perhaps he didn’t have enough faith. Perhaps his goal was worldly and not God-honoring. Perhaps we should just tell him it wasn’t God’s will and turn away. We can ignore the niggling in our hearts that warns something like that could happen to us. We could even redefine the goal to pretend what actually happened is what we wanted all along. We could say that Greenburg didn’t really want to get a hit; he wanted just to get an at bat.
I have this feeling that God doesn’t want us to make excuses for Him. I can’t shake the feeling that what was important to God, or would be important if we were in similar quests, was not “success” as we define it at all. Maybe God doesn’t care about our goals and is working on one of His own. Maybe he knew that the best way to get to His goal was for us to fail at ours.
I can’t begin to guess what God was doing with and through Greenburg. But one thing the man said after he struck out stays with me. “Life throws you curveballs. Mine threw me a fast ball at 92 mph and it hit me in the back of the head. I got up from it and my life is great.” Maybe the next time I face a long effort that doesn’t turn out the way I hoped and prayed God really had a lesson like that in mind all along.