Bounded on both sides by years of losing and misery, the 1993 club caught lightning in a bottle and made it all the way to the World Series. The winning brought great joy in a variety of ways: the unexpectedness of it all, the respite of relief it brought, and the many different ways the team found to win. But what also made the year so much fun was the colorful cast of characters that comprised the 1993 Phillies.
One of those lead characters, and also one of the team’s best players, was Lenny Dykstra. Dykstra was the great sparkplug and leadoff hitter who set the table for the success of that team and so often came through in the clutch. Always playing the game at 100% and with no regard for his body, he did whatever it took to gain success on the field and help his team to win.
As much fun as it was cheering for Lenny Dykstra on the field, there was always a suspicion that he may actually be far from a good person off the field. While there frequently wasn’t nearly as much known about the private lives of athletes back in those years as there often is today with the internet and 24 hour news cycle and social media, what could be seen about the way Dykstra carried himself raised some red flags. Surely enough as the years played out, many stories came to light of the excessively narcissistic conduct of the man and the ways he treated others in a totally rotten fashion. This was all capped off by Dykstra spending several years in prison on a variety of financial fraud and misconduct charges and convictions.
A couple weeks ago I read an interview on Dykstra where he shares about having been addicted to drugs, and then when he beat that addiction he became addicted to money. Money became his new drugs. He then went on to say that he has since overcome the money addiction and is now a much better person. The claim of being a much better person was met by a considerable skepticism by the interviewer (and writer of the article). The interviewer allowed that Dykstra had made some corrections in his life, but was still concerned by some of the ways Dykstra acted and things he said during their time together. It would seem that Lenny Dykstra may have quite a ways to go until most people would recognize him as a “good person”.
Although some of us may have experienced such, many of us have never and likely never will reach the heights of success of a Lenny Dykstra nor reach the depths of his dastardly deeds. We won’t gain the notoriety of being a famous ball player with much personal and team success in the game and we won’t end up going to jail for the terrible ways we treated people and scammed them out of money. We won’t be on the cover of magazines for our athletic exploits nor in the news for financial fraud, damaging our own property, or with accusations of sexual assault.
But we all have those things we struggle with that keep us from being “good people”. Maybe not to the extreme of a Lenny Dykstra, but still constrained, nonetheless, from doing the good we could be doing and in many cases achieving harm instead. Some of us very well may battle with drugs or alcohol. Others of us may actually have as destructive of an addiction to money as Dykstra did.
Yet for others, our addictions and the things that control us may be “softer”. We may not have that strong out of control addiction to money, but finances sure do steer us much more than we sometimes like to admit. Our desires for affluence and/or financial security may many times disrupt the path that God desires for us. Whether it is in how we prioritize our time in our designs to make money and gain material things or in how we covet, “If I could just have….”, we can become distracted from good or better things God has for us.
And it’s not always about money either. There’s also the desires for peace or power or comfort or to be loved or to be entertained or so on and so on. Many matters which can often have overlap with money or with each other. All things that in and of themselves are not bad and can even be good. But when they control us, when they enslave us, this is not good. Some of these things we may not usually even include in our list of traditional “vices”, but they are vices indeed. Maybe we don’t become as rotten as some others we can point to, but we certainly fall well short of what God would have for us.
In the end we are good people because we are all created in the image of God. Yet, we are not good people because our sins and our enslavements are diametrically opposed to God. I may point at a Lenny Dykstra and say that I’m not nearly as bad as that guy. But my idol of personal comfortableness and not wanting to experience discomfort, even when I know God wants me to do something that will make me uncomfortable, sure isn’t making me a much better person.
So we thank God for a Savior, because none of us is going to get anywhere close to making it on our own. When the only other way to make it home safely is to bat 1.000 throughout all of life, there really isn’t much difference between the All-Star hitting .300 and the scrub who can barely put up a .200 batting average. If such batting averages were even tracked, we’d all fall woefully short of the Standard Setter.
We would desire that God would help us to increase our batting average so that we could be a greater reflection of shining light for Him and impact others in a positive fashion. But we also realize that we are a fallen people living in a fallen world who will always struggle with things until we would pass from this earth or until Christ returns and sets all things right. No matter our batting average or with what things we continue to struggle, we are relying on God to pull us through. Because whether we are a Lenny Dykstra or a Billy Sunday or a Charles Manson or a Charles Spurgeon, we’re not going to make it on our own.