The sports headline last week read, “Hamilton had January relapse.” Of course the reference was to Josh Hamilton, the star center-fielder and batting champ for the Texas Rangers. Everyone, I guess, knows his story, a top drafted player who hit the skids due to drugs and alcohol, then, through a deeply spiritual faith experience with Christ and his grandmother’s love, made a comeback to major league stardom.
When Hamilton hit thirty-five home-runs in the home-run derby before the All Star game last year, my mother claimed him as family …”Maybe a long lost cousin,” she said, since her mother’s maiden name was Hamilton. My mother is a baseball fan. At 87, she almost never misses a televised Rangers game, even when they are on the west coast and play until 2 AM. When her vision started to fail this year she chose to have cataract surgery so she could watch the game.
I guess I am a baseball fan too. When I was fifteen I followed every home run by Mantle and Maris in their race to break Babe Ruth’s record. I could shag flies and grounders all day in the Texas heat and go back for more. I resonated with Field of Dreams, and watched it over and over. I’ll probably watch it again.
So, Hamilton’s story caught my attention, not just because he is a gifted ball player, but because he represents everyone who struggles with addictions and weaknesses. He says his relapse last January started with the thought, “Maybe I can just drink one.” Of course, that is the way the sins that seek to destroy us always start.
He had learned something along the way as a follower of Jesus that makes this relapse different than his earlier demise. He immediately confessed it where it needed to be confessed, to his wife, Katie, to his family and to his employers. Now that it is public, he is confessing it to us. The Bible says, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13). And James states, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed..” (James 5:16). Whenever we sin, we should confess it to those who are closest to us and those it directly affects.
I like the way Hamilton’s teammates responded. Ian Kinsler said, “We don’t need an apology. That’s his battle. We’re here to be his friend and love him as a teammate.” It sounds a lot like the way Jesus wants His churches to work. I suppose it was the way Peter’ s friends responded when he told them about denying Jesus at the trial.
I recently picked up Mickey Mantle’s autobiography at a used books store in Terrell. According to Mantle, he always struggled with excessive drinking. Mantle did not grow up in church. He attended prayer meetings convened by his teammate Bobby Richardson for awhile, but never learned “church speak.” He concludes his story by saying, “I guess we are all on the same team now … It’s even like Casey [Stengel] is running it. I might not know what he is saying all the time, but if he tells me to bunt, I’m going to bunt. If he tells me to swing away, I’m going for the fences.”