|OMETIMES, WHEN I'M covering a ballgame or studying baseball stats or listening in on a NASCAR teleconference, I'm struck by this thought:|
Why am I doing this?
It's not a question of whether I like my job -- I love it -- but I guess I feel a bit like the late Pat Tillman, who realized just how "worthless" his NFL career was compared to what U.S. soldiers were doing in Afghanistan and Iraq. He knew there was something greater he could, and in his mind should, be doing.
So it is with me sometimes. Babies are being legally slaughtered, our Constitution is under relentless attack, children in Africa are sick and starving, the culture war is raging ... and I'm writing about some high school kid's ability to throw four reliable pitches. My work doesn't make society aware of disturbing trends or expose the hypocrisy of politicians. The toughest question I have to ask is, "Coach, why didn't you pull your starter after he loaded the bases?"
The thought gives me a bit of an empty feeling, I'll admit. I risk losing my motivation to write if I dwell on it too long. I start wondering what purpose my writing actually serves in God's grand, glorious scheme. I possess much sports knowledge that is ultimately useless, at least when compared to true wisdom.
I suppose some of this guilt is borne of the mistaken but so typically human assumption that I must earn God's favor through great works. I don't feel like I'm pulling my weight, that I'm not fully using my abilities to serve God. I become self-deprecating to the point of self-mockery concerning my job; should I become a writer of, in my narrow view, more worthy subject matter, that attitude would easily become one of self-importance. I would look down on sports writers, most likely.
Which brings me to a point in this discussion where I can no longer avoid the question of whether my work is, in reality, worth anything to God. Again, my struggle points directly to my human need for affirmation, that I can make myself worthy to be loved. I know deep down I deserve no such love from God, not after the way I've sinned, and continue to sin, against Him and His creation. Still, there remains the notion that upon conversion I entered into a sort of legal contract with God, and that if I don't fulfill my end of it, I will be cast off as an unproductive employee.
My struggle also points to the very humanistic idea that if you're not doing something great, you're doing nothing. The leading roles are the most coveted, and the world tells us that unless you give to this charity or support this fund-raiser, then you're not doing your duty. It's a guilt trip all the way (see Rick Reilly's recent column in Sports Illustrated about mosquito nets; I'm all for it, but he acts like it's the only need in the world).
Not all of us are given lead roles. But God does not look down on the supporting actors, if you will, or think them less important than anyone else. I should put aside my pride and realize He doesn't always work as directly as I think He does. That is, I will not always see the fruit of my labors; also, He can produce fruit from what seems the most trivial of labors. Think of the Butterfly Effect, with God directing the dominoes.
As Saul learned, the hard way, "to obey is better than sacrifice ..." (1 Samuel 15:22). At the risk of stretching that passage's applicability, I believe it can mean, in my situation, to be obedient in whatever role God has chosen for me rather than pursuing what is in my mind a loftier purpose.
Besides, who knows where God is leading me? Perhaps He's preparing me for another job someday, where I write about these crucial issues that effect so many people. Or maybe I'll always be a sports writer, driving to ballgames and talking with coaches and athletes.
As long as I know it's being done in His service, I have to believe that being obedient to Him and doing my job to the best of my abilities is a most worthy endeavor.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a sports journalist in Tupelo, Mississippi.
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