Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Knuckleball

It is the fear of every big leaguer when at bat. All their power reduced to nothing in the face of it. All their skill, training and physical prowess is drained out of them leaving them knock kneed as a sandlot toddler facing their first at bat. There is no control and there is nothing that can stop its willy-nilly bumble bee approach towards the plate ripping bare by its pure unpredictability. So what is it? It is the knuckle ball thrown by some of the most famous but obscure pitchers in history. No one understands how they do it and many have tried to perfect the art of the knuckle ball and how to throw it but the pitch eludes a degree of training and even skill-set. It is almost as if in the heavenly design where the gifts are given, these receive a special one: the ability to throw it. It would seem that the pitch finds you and not vice versa and therein is its power: it cannot be understood and no one not even its famous bearers admit to being its master. They like a child on the back of a full throttle tiger running through thick jungle are as much inundated and eclipsed by its power it seems all they can do is hold on to the ball, grip it in a form that is as unique as a fingerprint wind up and let it go holding their breath and trusting not even in their skill but the physics of the pitch itself. Each team member and manager holding their breath because they know they are along for the ride as well left to the mercy and randomness of the pitch. The whole team understands they are exposed to the random factors of the pitch and they too with laser beam precision watch unflinching at the horror of the pitch reflected in the batter’s wince. Many a bat has been broken out of frustration reducing them to a three year old with a huge and fat plastic bat wiffling away at a pitch that cannot be tamed. This is the nature of the knuckleball.

It as a pitch has saved many a career and livelihood and turned fading stars into center stage players delivering the pitch to the delight and abject fear of every team mate. They are an odd bunch and never would have made it as far as they did without the pitch that found them ,changed them and exalted them. Yet, all the while it whispers in their ear that the power did not rest in them at all but in the pitch itself. Even those who made their career with it seem short for words when they talk about the pitch. It is as if they are as in the dark about it as the rest of us. Right now there is only one in the majors that is wielded by the random power of the pitch. His wind up and delivery even seem a little herky-jerky and random…oh but the pitch almost seems to come with the lethal force that baffles the most feared hitter. They are a bunch of guys that look out of place on a major league field. They are usually older than the spry and strong ones, their bellies hanging over the belt maybe on the paunchy side. But when they wind up and throw, theirs is the power of a lightning rod in which is channeled the divine gift. When they first find it, they seem to rely on it as their ‘ace’, You know, one of many pitches that they can wield with skill but in the end the heater cools, the slider chops, the curve straightens and the one multi-talented player is left in the shadow of the pitch. Phil Neikro perhaps one of the most famous riders of the pitch said in the end it was all he threw. He grew to love the pitch and probably was one of the very few to breathe the trail of the pitch and to comprehend its power and sporadic beauty. I cannot know for sure this is true but having seen him on documentaries talking about the pitch with other peers, there is a mist in his eyes that gleams bright as a ballpark Saturday and reflects the smells of the field, the hotdogs, the pretzels and the sound of the roar of the crowd as the dull slap of the pitch is lost in a mitt just south of home plate.

In the Pitch’s Shadow

So what does this have to do with our faith? Why do I expend such metaphorical effort to one discrete pitch thrown since the game began? It is because I believe every Christian believer is a knuckleballer. We have a pitch that makes us as powerless as the batter and there is no real skill we can truly claim to master in its delivery. The gospel is a knuckle ball and will not be tamed by any one denomination or person. The ones that truly are its most famous will readily admit the power is not in themselves at all but the pitch. It is devastating in its delivery when the Spirit of Godthe seeming only master it hastakes over and wraps himself around the seams.

We stumble in our delivery and see our inadequacy in ‘throwing’ the pitch but we must remember, it is not in us but in Him and His power and not in us. I believe that Paul understood this principle and we would do well to follow his perspective:

‘And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men but the power of God…’ I Cor 2:4-5

Here’s a suggestion, deliver the pitch in all your weakness and stumbling…just throw it. It is not up to you. You perceive your life is too out of order? Don't think your 're ___________ (you fill in the blank )? Throw it anyway…throw it with your last breath. The great truth is we will never master it but from God by our being given that divine spirit, have been given the pitch. It is in your weakness that the power of God can be truly delivered. Stop listening to perhaps yourself, your life and your place in life and just let it go. The world is dying to hear it. Will there be times when you throw it and the batter just eats it for breakfast? Oh yes, any knuckleballer will tell you that it is a risk you always take. But what they will also tell you is that they have learned to trust the pitch. They use it not because it is always successful but they have seen first hand its devastating power so many times, they know it is their best hope. We have to realize that we are all benefactors of someone who pitched to us. We are in a long line of those who stumbling and fumbling threw the pitch and someone received the power of the gospel through such means as the uniqueness of each pitch…they are all different. I have to stand back and laugh and shake my head at such a pitch and the people God uses to deliver it…people like me. But that is the wisdom of a God too deep to plumb. One thing is for sure, in the end, because we throw it, we give the pitch one thing, a chance to work. All God is really asking us to do is throw it because the results are really not up to us: it is in the pitch.

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