On October 6, 2001, legendary Hall of Fame and Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr. gave his farewell-to-baseball speech. His words were very intriguing:
As a kid, I had this dream. And I had the parents that helped me shape that dream. Then I became part of an organization—the Baltimore Orioles—to help me grow that dream. Imagine playing for my hometown team for my whole career. And I have a wife and children to help me share and savor the fruits of that dream. And I’ve had teammates who filled my career with unbelievable moments. And you fans, who have loved the game, and have shared your love with me.
Now it is a fact that Ripken had one of the standout baseball careers of all time. As a result, he could have talked about his 3,184 career hits, 19 times as an All Star, his two times as the American League Most Valuable Player, his part in the Orioles 1983 World Series championship, or, most notably, his record 2,632 consecutive games played streak. Citing any or all of those things would have been in keeping with what is often the mindset of the modern athlete. But he didn’t.
Notice again his speech. Ripken talked about his parents, his wife and children, his teammates, and the Baltimore fans and organization. As he reflected on his 20-year baseball career, it wasn’t about the game for Ripken. It was about relationships.
Relationships are the key to everything in life. Beginning with a relationship with God through faith in Christ, all of our lives are marked—for good or for ill—by the presence or absence, the loss or gain, the joy or heartaches of relationships. Nothing is more clear than the fact that we are made for community and designed to both want and need relationships. After all, as God said in the ancient garden, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18).
We are made for Him and we are made for each other—which is why there is so much relational wisdom in the pages of the Scriptures. For instance, Paul wrote:
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:17-18)
That is relational stuff! Just as, in sports, it’s not just about the game, in life it is not just about me. It is about relationships with others, and how we live out those relationships. It is about caring for the needs and concerns of others, as we read in Philippians 2:3-4:
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
How we engage others in relationship is a vital part of life. And, living those relationships in a manner that pleases our Lord is critical to meaningful living.
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain