Consider the blameless, observe the upright
by Phil Wagler
I’m coaching baseball. Teaching 10-year-old boys the difference between force plays and tagging up is an agonizing art. It really is like herding cats. Then there’s the fine line between patience at the plate and swinging away. Our only hope of winning these days is if our pitchers toss a shutout and we score a run with a bases loaded walk. Putting good pitching and timely hitting together in the same game has happened with about the regularity of Haley’s comet and the Cubs winning the World Series. We desperately need a balanced attack.
I’m observing something in the men around me. Beneath the polished veneer of casual greetings and conversations about gas prices and the weather runs a tightrope over troubled waters. We live with the tension between what we have and don’t have; who we know and don’t know; what we do and don’t do; who we are and who we wish we’d be. Many of us don’t know whether we’re coming or going, where we’re headed, or who we are. We sometimes hit, sometimes throw strikes, and often feel like we’ve dropped the ball. We desperately need a balanced attack.
I coach boys to become men, not just hitters and fielders. But, they already seem torn and tossed about, small versions of their tattered dads sitting in the stands. They are over-the-top self-conscious, critical, seemingly bearing the weight of the world on their boney shoulders. A culture tells them million-dollar contracts rest on the next pitch; that they must own the latest tech-toy or movie; that they should be what everyone else expects them to be. Their souls are cluttered and busy beyond belief; they lack peace. They have no concept of wholeness, of that ancient biblical notion of shalom.
A man of shalom who can find?
Shalom is a beautiful old Hebrew word translated “peace” in English Bibles. But, it doesn’t just mean peace as in no shots being fired or that glorious moment just after the kids go to bed. Shalom means completeness, well-rounded happiness, soul rested-ness; prosperity from the depths. It is what we secretly yearn for. It is the stillness of the batter’s box from which life can explode into action. Shalom is the source of the balanced attack. And shalom is a gift received from God when we cease our striving; when we surrender; when we heed his ways; when we believe.
If the boys we coach and put to bed grow up to be like us, what will their futures look like? The prospects are rather unnerving. The future is beginning to look like an ADHD, fast food, credit card, celebrity-driven unstable mishmash.
If we—I’m talking to the big guys now— are men not bound by faith to the Ancient of Days and the Prince of Peace, we have no shalom. Without this sure footing we have nothing but the frantic chaos and tensions of the world and ourselves to offer those boys with bats on their shoulders and the world at their disposal.
Convinced we must experience a piece of everything, we are not leading the next generation (or ourselves) into peace at all. We avoid the wells of the Spirit where we must wrestle with our own darkness, our own inner tensions, imbalances, complexities and sin. Consequently, we never find the source of true joy, freedom, forgiveness, brotherhood and hope. If we are to have a balanced attack we simply must go to these peace-filled depths.
Without shalom our vision is blurred. We look at the proud man, the loud man, the crowd man and he looks so balanced. He always seems to hit home runs and throw strikes. He seems destined for fame and fortune. But, look more closely. Think more biblically.
I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree…but he soon passed away and was no more…Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for a man of peace/shalom (Psalm 37:35-37).
A man of peace you can find. A boy of shalom can rise from your influence. Wholeness, rest and peace can be had, but you can’t buy it or strive after it. You have to surrender your way into it. You might even need to strike out a few times. But, having found God’s wholeness— even the hard way—you will finally know and coach a balanced attack.
Phil Wagler is a son, husband, father, pastor and author living in rural southwestern Ontario.
The article above was featured in the September 2008 issue of SEVEN magazine.