Today’s blog post is by guest writer Kim Shippey: For North American baseball enthusiasts at this time of the year I doubt that there are two more treasured and evocative words than spring training!
This year, much media interest in the new season will be focused on a relative newcomer to spring training, Tim Tebow, who was associated with four National League football teams (getting cut from three of them) before making a dramatic switch to the minor leagues of baseball, signing with the New York Mets.
The subtitle of Shaken neatly explains its goal: “Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms.” And there have been plenty of storms in Tebow’s sporting career, because, as Greg Bishop points out, “Tebow was never just a quarterback. He was a champion of Christianity in shoulder pads, a wholesome, fearsome football player who loved God and touchdowns, in that order” (The New York Times, November 7, 2011).
Bishop adds that if detractors have found Tebow preachy and too good to be true it shouldn’t be forgotten that he won two national college championships and college football’s highest honor, the Heisman Trophy.
But back to Tebow’s anticipation of a new baseball season. The happy rituals are well known to a friend of mine who played as a professional in the minor leagues on the West Coast. Baseball is different from other sports, he says, in that even when you are relatively successful, so much of the game hinges on the likelihood of failure of a kind—seemingly endless missed hits or misdirected pitches.
“You soon learn how humble you have to be to experience less failure,” he went on. “In my case, I needed much more humility and a lot of prayer in order for God to work through me and give real purpose to my sporting career.”
And that’s the approach Tebow outlines in Shaken—how he learned to step back and let God reveal his true identity.
In a recent interview on ABC Television’s Good Morning America, Tebow was quick to respond to a question from a teenage girl in the audience, who said: “You are one of the biggest names in sports. How do you stay so humble?”
Tebow replied: “Humility is really hard. [As I think C. S. Lewis once said], it comes not from thinking less of yourself, but from thinking of yourself less. For me, it’s about trying to live for the people around you and what they need. Being alert to see how you can help them; because the greatest form of love is choosing the best interest of another person and acting on their behalf. Deciding how you can make an impact in their life.
“The Bible gets it just right,” he added. ” ‘I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken’ (Psalms 16:8, New American Standard Bible).”
Tebow insists his new book is not a memoir but rather an account of the truths he’s discovered along his shaky pathway and about some of the “amazing”people who have inspired him during his recovery and stabilization.
These include Tim Keller, Stephen Covey, Ravi Zacharias, Henri Nouwen, Helen Keller, and Lee Strobel.
Among Tebow’s many discoveries is the fact that the highs or lows in life don’t determine who we are. God’s plans for us are bigger and better. He writes:”I like to say that identity comes not necessarily from who we are, but from whose we are.”
And Tebow reasons further: ”I am a child of God. My foundation for who I am is grounded in my faith. In a God who loves me. In a God who gives me purpose. In a God who see the big picture. In a God who always has a greater plan.”
Tebow doesn’t hesitate to mention his controversial kneeling on the sidelines in victory and defeat during football games. He simply writes: “This turned attention off of me and pointed toward God.”
I suspect that God’s purposes for Tim Tebow are still unfolding as Tebow loosens up for baseball spring training and seeks firm direction in his career. And I would suggest that, like my friend who some years ago prayed his way through the minor leagues, Tebow might explore this truth revealed by the founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, well over 100 years ago: “Spirit, God, gathers unformed thoughts into their proper channels, and unfolds these thoughts, even as He opens the petals of a holy purpose in order that the purpose may appear” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 506).