Friday, June 4, 2010

Perfect game

Perfection. I was thinking about this concept the other day when major league umpire Jim Joyce blew the call on the last out for Armando Galarraga’s perfect game. Twenty-seven batters up and twenty-seven batters out, is the definition of a perfect game. Replays show that Gallaraga had his perfect game. The last batter was out at first base, but the ump called it wrong. And the call stood. Baseball has no mechanism for overturning such a call. Fans are rightly screaming for video-replay option, to let the umps have a second look.

All my professional life I have been urging people to consider that perfection is not the minimum. This advice is especially important for people who are hard on themselves or on others. Baseball has a clear definition for the perfect game. Life does not.

Out here in the orchard, perfection is not even a consideration. The creatures go about their work. They build, they reproduce, they hunt for food, they feed themselves and their young. If things do not work out, they try again. You see it all the time. Funny that is does not work that way with humans.

We do something and then we evaluate it. We watch someone else do something and then we evaluate that too. How do you score on the harsh-judgment meter?

Sometimes we evaluate our effort even before we do it. And get too nervous to try. So we bail.

Fortunately our God does not see it the way we often do. The story of the Prodigal Son is a tremendous illustration of how God assesses things. Where many of us humans would be yelling at the younger son for being such an ungrateful little jerk, the Father simply welcomes him home. Does God blow the call, then? Or is the message rather that the outcome is not about performance, it is about relationship. God is not hanging out for us to get it right all the time.

In life as in baseball itself, perfection is not the minimum. We would go crazy if it were. Staying in the game is the minimum, always returning to the relationship. We will be called safe, count on it.

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