Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Instructive Power of a Broken Heart

"On my desk in New York sits a photograph of a seven-year-old boy. He's wearing a pair of glasses, a freshly ironed shirt buttoned to the neck and his best smile. I placed that picture on my desk at the suggestion of a friend who understood that, as someone who grew up fundamentalist, I was having a difficult time finding my way as an adult. 'Just look at that picture of yourself as a child,' he suggested, 'and try to recall what it was like to be that child.'

Then one morning, while seated at my desk, it all came back. In 1961, we lived in a parsonage next to the church out in the farm country of southern Minnesota, and there was nothing in the world more important to me than baseball. One day my father returned from town with a plastic bat and ball. 'Let's play ball,' he said. I couldn't have been more excited, in part because I knew, even then, that my father had no interest whatsoever in sports of any kind. I recall what happened next as though it was yesterday. After swinging wildly at a couple of pitches, I decided to let a few go by.

'Well, what's the point of all this?' my father huffed. 'If you dont' swing I'm just wasting my time.' He tossed the ball in my direction, turned and headed back to his study.

We never played ball again.

In the midst of my tears that morning in my office I recognized that I had spent most of my life hoping that my father would pitch to me again....Maybe, just maybe, if this kid smiled harder, if he excelled in school, if he suffered through piano lessons, if he obeyed all the rules or if he memorized enough Bible verses, his father would emerge from his study to hit a few grounders or to pitch a few more. This time, I vowed, I would swing at every pitch."

- Randall Balmer, Growing Pains, pp. 17-19

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