486) A Life Changed by Jesus

From John Stonestreet’s August 7, 2014 blog at  www.breakpoint.org

     In 1980, the New York Mets selected an 18-year-old baseball phenom, Darryl Strawberry, with the first pick in the Major League draft.

     Being a Mets fan in the 1970’s was tough, so it’s not an exaggeration to say that many saw the outfielder from Crenshaw High School in LA as a potential savior for the moribund franchise.  And he delivered.
     Strawberry played in eight consecutive All-Star games, seven of them while playing for the Mets.  In 1986, he helped the Mets win the World Series, hitting a moonshot in the seventh and deciding game that put the game out of reach.
     But while Strawberry delivered on the field, his life off the field amply demonstrated that the so-called “savior” was desperately in need of, well, a real Savior.  And, God be praised, he found Him.
     It was clear early on that Strawberry was, to put it mildly, a troubled young man.  As a recent profile of Strawberry on HBO’s “Real Sports” told viewers, his friends worried about what would happen to Strawberry after his playing days were over.
     Their fears were well-grounded.  While playing, he became a regular cocaine user.  And after retiring, he was in and out of rehab at least five times.  He was arrested several times and spent eleven months in jail.  He despaired of ever breaking his addiction.  As he told a judge, he had given up on life.
     Well fortunately, God had not given up on Darryl Strawberry.  At a Narcotics Anonymous convention he met Tracy, a recovering addict herself.  He told her to stay away from him, but she didn’t.  And when he relapsed, it was Tracy who went banging on crack house doors looking for him.  She took him home to her parents house and to St. Louis.
     And when Tracy became a Christian, she eventually led Strawberry to the Savior he had desperately needed all along.
     Today, Darryl and Tracy, who were married in 2006, run a ministry for people struggling with addiction.  When Bernard Goldberg entered their home, he was struck by the lack of any reference to Strawberry’s big league career.  He told Strawberry that he saw “no indication that he used to be a major league baseball player,” to which Strawberry replied “you said it clearly– ‘used to be.’”
     As Strawberry told Goldberg, the old Darryl Strawberry “had to die.”  Not just the addict, but the self-centered celebrity, as well.  In its place, there’s now a new man—just as the Gospel promises—dedicated to restoring people whose lives are teetering on the same self-destructive precipice as his once was.
     We see evidence of human brokenness all around us.  But in its midst, grace abounds.  God unceasingly works to heal wounds created by sin and to restore the wholeness—the shalom—our sin causes us to forfeit.   My Mets-devoted colleagues saw it by watching, of all things, HBO, as did anyone else who caught that special on the former baseball great Darryl Strawberry.
Darryl and Tracy Strawberry
Philippians 3:13b-14  —  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Luke 18:13  —  …The tax collector stood at a distance.  He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
II Corinthians 5:17  —  …If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!
Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight…
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me…
Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise…
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.