Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. ~Luke 2:52
So who would you rather be Eddy Rodriguez or Ted Williams?
A few weeks ago I was kerfluffled (technical term) by an often used but rarely considered phrase: “I just want to get ahead in life.”
Ahead of who? Ahead of what?
I think we actually use it to mean that we want to make it big early so we can coast through the rest of our life. Not only is that uninspiring, it is also a bad marathon strategy and a poor leadership philosophy.
In running, this concept is called the negative split where you go out slowly and deliberately so that each segment may become faster culminating with a blistering push to the finish line.
Which brings me to Eddy Rodriguez and Ted Williams.
Eddy Rodriguez was a catcher in the Major Leagues in 2012. In his first at bat in the major leagues he hit a homerun. His opening stat sheet would have read:
However, Eddy Rodriguez had to keep playing the game, and the next one before being sent back into the minor league pool.
Imagine the enthuasism Eddy would have felt-especially after his back story of defecting to the USA-as he rounded the bases during that first at bat. Then imagine the pressure during the next 4 at bats to swing for the fences in order to repeat that exhilaration and earn his keep.
In contrast, Ted Williams’ opening game with the Red Sox against the Yankees is April 20, 1939 where he goes 1 for 4 with 2 strike outs. While being overshadowed by Gehrig and DiMaggio in this opening game, Williams chugs along to end a storied career with the best On Base Percentage in Baseball history, which includes a streak of 4 homeruns in 4 at bats culminating in September 22, 1957 with a grand slam.
In the end this is how MLB describes his final at bat:
September 26, 1960: Ted Williams, making his final big-league plate appearance against Baltimore’s Jack Fisher, drives a 1-1 pitch an estimated 450 feet into the seats in right-center behind the Boston bullpen. It is Williams’s 521st and final HR, putting him third on the all-time list. Williams’s HR gives the seventh-place Red Sox a 5-4 victory. When he trots out to left field in the 9th, he is replaced immediately by Carroll Hardy. Williams retires to a standing ovation from the adoring fans.
So would you rather start off with a big flourish into obscurity or finish a long life with a bang and a standing ovation?
Recently, I read these challenging words from A Work of Heart:
The lure of the limelight has caused many leaders to miss the maturing of the commonplace by fast tracking into premature leadership. Ultimately, they get into situations over their heads.
God uses the commonplace to build character and expand a leader’s heart by layering experiences that must be available for later larger assignments.
Leaders of great legacy look back over their lives and see that every assignment was God’s preparation for the next thing.
So, while you slug through each at bat dig deep knowing that the wealth of experience, the perspective of looking over past struggles, and the patience to not fast-track are all mechanisms that God uses to fine tune you.
This was Jesus style. Ever wonder why Jesus spent 30 years working as a carpenter before going public with his ministry? Those lines from Luke 2:52 are interesting-Jesus, the Son of God, took time of maturation and preparation. God was pacing His perfect revelation so that at just the right time and just the right way Jesus could demonstrate the power of finishing strong.
While many of us are drawn to the limelight, we should relish the opportunities to develop as leaders before we are called up.
Our goal should be to slide into the Home Plate of life hearing this words: “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” Matthew 25:23.