The MLB all-star game was last night. The big game, and the various festivities and events surrounding it (namely, the home run derby) have always been one of the memorable elements of America’s pastime. I’ve always enjoyed all-star games. There’s something to be said about seeing the most talented individuals of a particular sport perform on the same field/court at the same time. All-star games are celebratory in nature–the oohs and aahs over exceptional talent and nostalgia over the rich history and love for the sport. Pass me the cracker jacks would ya?
Of course, All-Stars make the team by way of a vote. There are always the few players who’ve had good starts to the season, or have had notable careers, and yet they weren’t selected. Los Angeles Dodgers’ right fielder, Yasiel Puig, who has had a stellar season thus far, is perhaps the best recent example of these shoulda-beens. For whatever reason, Puig wasn’t All-Star material. No doubt, the nature of the All-Star Game varies from sport to sport–with their own particular segments and backstories that we all love–but the big picture is the same: the best players play, and only the best.
This is something we love. We love to distinguish the really great from average talent. I love to do this. It’s fun for conversation and it’s entertaining to watch. Our proclivity towards distinctions, however minute, is embedded in our very psyche/person. We distinguish good friends from best friends. The most productive on the floor from the average joe and the sluggard; the honest from the liar and so on. Within our own inner-monologue, we stack up the traits of those closest to us, to our own traits. This ploy also has profound consequences on our beliefs about God, more to the point, and how he treats us/what he thinks of us. Oftentimes I find myself imagining my own inner-all-star-team of sorts, all of whom are highly intelligent, well-spoken theology types–Reformers, famous pastors, whoever. Consequentially, so I’ve thought, as a result of their extraordinary gifts, accolades and vocations–God must exceptionally love them. Why wouldn’t he? They are exceptional human beings, worth striving to imitate. Maybe your all-star team is full of missionaries who live in huts. Maybe they’re geniuses or philanthropists or immaculate housewives. Whatever the case may be, you aren’t on the team. I’m not on the team. Our spiritual/emotional all-star team is made up of individuals who possess gifts and attributes we don’t have, or we used to have, or are working to have one day.
It’s helpful to remind ourselves, (again and again, because, to be sure, we will certainly forget) of the good news that, as Brennan Manning said so many times, “we are loved unconditionally as we are, and not as we should be.” While we might serve as little selection committees, propping those who really have it together on our pedestal(s) (the pedestal we wish we were on) distinguishing them from our own mundane little lives, the gospel of grace announces there is no all-star team. In fact, accolades and accomplishments–whether it’s home runs, base hits, strikeouts or even mission trips–simply don’t have a say when it comes to grace: Another’s merits are what we bank on.