As I sit here rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2011 World Series, my mind has been drawn, ironically, to the story of a player from the opposing team. You see, Josh Hamilton, an outfielder for the Texas Rangers, has a story that truly speaks to the amazing grace of God. In 1999, considered the best prospect in baseball, Hamilton was chosen as the number one pick in the MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Unfortunately, after a short stint in the minor leagues chronic back problems would send him into a downward spiral that would nearly cost him everything.
Unable to play a game that had been a huge part of his life since childhood and separated from his parents with whom he had always shared a very close relationship, Hamilton began to hang out with a crowd that would lead him down the rough road of drug addiction. Once ensnared by an addiction to crack Hamilton would receive suspension from baseball, and later separation and a restraining order from his wife. What had originally hinged on the ill fortune of injury and the subsequent poor choices of whom he associated with, ultimately became a four year journey into a pit of darkness and despair. It was a journey that would even serve to alienate him from the parents with whom he had once been so close. Poetically, while his journey into darkness hinged on a choice of association, he would embark on a journey of redemption that hinged on an association as well.
Having hit rock bottom and knowing that he had isolated himself from any assistance from his wife or parents, Hamilton turned to the last person he thought might help. In the earliest hours of the morning, 2AM to be precise, he showed up at the door of his grandmother’s house. She immediately took him, in fed him, and put him to bed. The next morning, against the advice of the rest of the family, she got to work on him. She believed in him even though no one else did and while he continued his crack addiction over the next couple of days she continued to talk to him. More importantly, Jesus began to work through her. One night when he had pushed things as far as she could allow she gave him an ultimatum, straighten up or leave. As he retreated to his room the reality of what he was doing and what he had become sank in to the depths of his heart. It was in that moment that he completely surrendered himself to God. He picked up a Bible that his grandmother had placed on his bed and and stumbled onto James 4:7: “Humble yourself before God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” It was then that his second journey began.
Over the next weeks Hamilton embarked on a journey of rehabilitation and redemption that is truly inspiring. While God did not erase the mistakes of those four years, He led him into reconciliation with Himself and his family. He even led him to reinstatement into Major League Baseball and in 2008 Hamilton delivered a jaw dropping performance at the Home Run Derby. While he didn’t win the derby he shattered the record for the number of homers hit in the first round. In a post derby interview on national television, he gave all credit to Jesus for his recovery and abilities in baseball. Since then he has collaborated on an autobiographical book that chronicles this amazing story “Beyond Belief” and started an organization that teaches children about baseball and shares about Jesus in the process.
Admittedly, Hamilton has had one confirmed relapse since then. However, immediately following the indecent he came forward admitting his mistake. What we must remember is that none of us are perfect after our salvation experience. What God calls us to is a path that we travel as we follow Jesus. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23 In fact, as Hamilton himself spoke of the indecent, he stated that the problem had been that he had taken his eyes off Jesus.
Now as I sit here finishing up this post my team has lost. However, while I am sad about the loss being a huge St. Louis fan, it seems a little less important when compared with such an amazing story of the redemptive work of Jesus. We must not forget to celebrate the work that Jesus does in the lives of other Christians. Besides, there are two more games in the series and it’s not over till it’s over 😉 GO CARDINALS!