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Worship on the Mound

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World — New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey at age 37 is a first-time All-Star but a long-time member of West End Community Church in Nashville. A literature major at the University of Tennessee, he names his bats after literary weapons such as Hrunting, a sword in the epic poem Beowulf. Dickey languished in the minor leagues from 1996 to 2007, when he almost drowned trying to swim across the Missouri River. That became a turning point in his career: That year he mastered the knuckleball, which is ideally thrown without spin so that slight air movements over the ball’s stitched seams cause it to move in erratic and unpredictable ways.

In your recently published autobiography, Wherever I Wind Up, you’re explicit about how God saved and changed your life. Journalists have interviewed you a lot over the past several months. What percentage of the interviewers have asked about your Christian faith? Probably 15 to 20 percent.

The subject didn’t come up in your NPR interview. I brought it up. They edited it out. I always look for opportunities to talk about my faith in a way that is congruent with the story or the question that they ask, because it is important to me that people know. Most of the time it will be edited out.

Your description of the knuckleball—”The pitch has a mind of its own. You either embrace it for what it is—a pitch that is reliant on an amalgam of forces both seen and unseen—or you allow it to drive you half out of your mind”—seems like a metaphor for the mysteries of God’s providence in the Christian life. To a certain extent it is, at least for me. An element of surrender has enabled me to get to the next place with the knuckleball. An element of surrender in my own life has helped me get to the next place in my faith and relationship to Christ. I didn’t necessarily draw the parallel intentionally, but as a Christian there were so many times in my life where I wanted to control things and I would hold on to them so tightly that God couldn’t get anywhere near them—or so I thought.

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