Josh Hamilton – MVP, Michael Vick – Pictures of Restoration
November 24, 2010 by Bob Regnerus
In July of 2008, Josh Hamilton performed one of the most amazing things I ever saw in sports. His performance in the Home Run Derby that All Star weekend was nothing short of spectacular. He didn’t win that derby, but he stole the show. When I saw him hit those 28 home runs in the 1st round, it was like time stood still, and I was watching a movie. There’s some great fan videos of the event on YouTube if you want to relive it.
I had read a story about Josh in ESPN Magazine just one year before, that absolutely captivated me and led me to start following him one year before this event. Josh’s story is incredible, and while the article is a good summary, reading his book is even better to relive the gut-wrenching story of a life gone terribly wrong, and how his life, relationships, and career was restored.
A little over a week ago, another amazing feat happened that some people are describing as one of the most remarkable performances they have ever seen by a quarterback. The QB was Michael Vick, and he had one of the most dominate nights offensively in the history of the NFL. The Eagles led 35-0 after the first few seconds into the second quarter, they scored 59 points on a pretty good defense (on the road), Vick finished with 20 passes for 333 yards, threw 4 touchdowns, rushed for 80 yards, and ran in 2 touchdowns of his own.
Now Vick, as you recall, has been publicly humiliated and found guilty of running a dog fighting operation. Vick, the last couple years, is someone no one wanted to be around. Someone who was considered an awful human being and another has-been on the garbage heap. Yet here he is, back in the spotlight and suddenly riding a wave of new-found support. Vick will likely win the NFL’s comeback player of the year award, and may also have a shot at the MVP if he has a great December.
We love riches to rags to riches stories, don’t we? We love to worship and celebrate a hero when they are on the top of the world and entertaining us, then we really enjoy knocking them down when they stumble and fall, then we forget about them for a while – long after the jokes, stories, and tabloids get shelved, and then we rediscover them after they put their life back together and suddenly we consider these guys “ok” once again and we begin to celebrate them all over again.
With Hamilton on top and Vick climbing his way back up, isn’t Tiger Woods not far behind? I mean, Woods has hit bottom, don’t you think? Having a line of women form and accusing him of all kinds of things, losing his wife, and becoming the butt of jokes all over the world – isn’t he ready for a time of being forgotten (thank you, Brett Favre) and preparing for his triumphant return?
I guess I’m feeling a little cynical about this. I get a little queasy seeing Josh Hamilton get invited to speak at big mega-churches now. They draw a big crowd, talk about his story, and then brag on God for turning the man’s life around. I know Vick has found the Lord and his relationship with Tony Dungy had a lot to do with that. I’m sure we’re going to see churches rally to get Vick on stage too.
Here’s what is making me a little sick.
If Josh Hamilton, high on crack cocaine, dirty and covered with his own urine and feces had stepped into these mega-churches in 2002, 2003, 2004, or 2005, would they have any room for him? What if he walked into the sanctuary and sat in a seat and was having an episode right there? What if Michael Vick walked into a church 3 years ago, fresh off his public trial and sentence? What if he sat there, hoping to hear a message of hope? Would anyone welcome him? What church would welcome Tiger Woods in without creating a big issue of it right now? What about Brett Favre?
Sadly, I don’t think any of these men would have a fair shot or would be welcomed at all. In the case of Josh Hamilton, the ONLY people that loved him unconditionally and stayed with him through the mess was his grandmother and amazingly, his wife. Everyone else abandoned him. I’m sure Vick had some friends, but I’m touched that Coach Dungy was there for Vick with a spirit of forgiveness and love for the man and walked through the humiliation with him.
Does Tiger have a person like that? Don’t know.
None of us should be surprised that Josh Hamilton or Michael Vick have been restored. That’s THE work Christ does. Many think Christ’s work was done, and he’s now sitting down next to his Dad, watching things unfold down below. While I believe Christ is resting and back with Father, he’s not retired. I believe that Christ is CONSTANTLY restoring ALL THINGS to himself. His #1 priority since the beginning of time is to restore all things. His whole life is about restoring ours. So why are we so surprised when the Josh Hamilton’s and Michael Vick’s of this world go from the top, to the bottom, back to the top?
Better question: Why do we assume Christ cannot restore all the crap and mess we’ve made with our lives?
Why do we dismiss and leave people “to the enemy” as lost causes? Why do we shun people who are desperate, living without hope, slaves to their problems, and appear to be filled to the brim with evil?
Of anything God has shown me lately, it’s that he absolutely loves taking HOPELESS people and giving them hope. He takes a person who everyone has dismissed as a lost cause and promotes them to a higher place. When I see people running into the darkest places on earth and bringing freedom to them with a message of hope, that’s just amazing.
Don’t you dare sit there in self-pity and believe the lie that your life is a mess and cannot be fixed.
I don’t give a rip how complex and big your problem is. Christ can restore anything. For your sake, he went to hell and grabbed the keys, and then locked the door from the outside!!! Who else has been to hell and back and lived to tell about it?
I also challenge myself, and everyone that is reading this, to stop and consider who we’re loving. Are we just loving Josh Hamilton and Michael Vick circa 2010? Would we even stop and glance at them in their shame a few years ago?
Who are we ignoring right now in our life that Christ is pushing us to stand alongside of without judgement or condemnation?
Whose life is a complete train wreck right now – someone who is constantly making bad choices – is filthy, unholy, and pissed off at God?
Is there a person who you see, pass by, used to be friends with, or just popped into your life that God is telling you to go love that you’ve been ignoring?
Is there someone in pain that is clearly in a mess right now that needs someone to dare walk up their pile of garbage and show them love?
Don’t wait for everything to be clean and tidy before you celebrate a person. Celebrate them for how God sees them, and join him in the process of restoring them. From listening to Josh Hamilton tell his story, that’s what he wants you to celebrate – not his recovery and rise back to fame – Josh Hamilton wants you to celebrate Christ’s work in him and the hope that what he did for Josh can happen for anyone.