My kids have become fascinated with “dad stories.” They love to hear of my heroic exploits as a young child, and what dad doesn’t like to embellish (I mean share) some of his favorite childhood memories with wide-eyed, genetically predisposed fans. So last night, I obliged.
It was a baseball tale of legendary proportions. The summer between my 5th and 6th grade years found our squad playing for the league championship. Bases loaded, bottom of the last inning, and my number was up in the batting rotation. I stepped boldly to the plate, scraped my rubber cleats three times in the arid dirt, tucked a wad of Big League Chew neatly between my cheek and gums, stared down the wobbly-kneed pitcher like an old west gun fight…
…and went yard!
A hero was born. (Mostly) true story.
But then I had to go and try to play football.
It didn’t even take coach to the end of the first practice to notice my passivity (I would have loved playing football if it wasn’t for all the hitting and tackling). So he devised an ingenious plan for our first game of the season, sticking me dead center on the front line for the opening kickoff of our first game. The ball was sure to fly over my head, I could feign a few touch blocks, and then the real football players would do the dirty work far in the backfield behind me. That is, until the inexperienced kicker dribbled the old pigskin 10 yards off the tee right into my trembling, rookie fingers.
The rest is a permanent fixture in family folklore.
In sheer panic, I began running with the football fully extended like it was a baby with a dirty diaper, until (as my dad likes to recount the story) my scrawny form was violently swallowed beneath a pile of opposing team. The ball squirted upward through the mass of pre-pubescent humanity, was quickly scooped up by our enemy combatants, and returned untouched for a opening play touchdown.
I was forbidden to touch the ball ever again. (And rightfully so).
Lots of lessons in these two little anecdotes – understanding your gifts, responding to failure (knowing when to be a spectator). But the one I really wanted to drive home to my kids last night was perhaps the most profound. You see, I watched my baseball value soar in the summer of ’85, while my draft stock for football dropped faster than Tim Tebow. But my value in my dad’s eyes was never shaken.
And therein lies the powerful truth: Your value isn’t determined by what you can or can’t do, but by who loves you.
“We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.”
–Romans 5:7-8 MSG
In this life you’ll have some grand slam days, and then you’ll turn around and fumble the opening kickoff. But the beautiful, scandalous message of the Gospel is that you are deeply loved with no earning strings attached. You’re valued not by what you do, but because of what has been done for you.
Your Father already declared your draft stock when He sent Jesus. So what will you do, how will you love, and who will you serve knowing there’s absolutely nothing left for you to earn?