Wisdom in Action: From the Baseball Diamond to the Real Life Battlefield

THIS POST IS PART OF THE NEW SERIES, “A GOOD SOLDIER” – A SERIES OF REFLECTIONS ON THE MILITARY CLASSIC ONCE AN EAGLE AND HOW THE LESSONS WITHIN THE BOOK CONNECT TO BIBLICAL LEADERSHIP. FOR AN INTRODUCTION TO THE SERIES, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

Doing the Right Thing

When You Don’t Know What to Do

Sam Damon not only was a good soldier. He was one heck of a baseball player.

He excelled at the high school level and continued to play competitively after graduation. Soon after joining the army, Damon finds himself on the familiar diamond in a scrimmage between the troops. Even among a group of athletic soldiers that included former professional athletes, Damon stood out.

He could throw and hit a baseball harder and farther than most men, and he knew it. (p. 58)

With two outs in the last inning and Damon’s team clinging to a marginal lead, Private Sam Damon gives the reader a glimpse at true wisdom.

First, Damon accurately assessed the situation.

Davis, a solid hitter in his own right, is standing at the plate. If he gets on base, Damon’s team will find themselves letting the victory out of their clutches. Damon watched from the outfield as his pitcher stared the batter down and considered carefully his next pitch.

Sam knew what the big man was thinking: if he didn’t get Davis he would have to face Corporal Hansen, a big blond Swede who had hit him all afternoon, who could always hit him — who would drive in the two runs and the game would be over. (p. 59-60)

From over a hundred feet away, Damon observed what was happening and knew what would happen next if immediate action wasn’t taken to deal with the batter at hand. This at-bat, one way or the other, would determine the game.

Damon knew something had to be done.

Next, Damon instinctively acted with skill and with decisiveness.

Pitch by pitch, Damon predicted what would happen as if he were the pitcher and batter himself. Damon knew the pitcher was about to unleash a fastball right over the plate to try to bring the count back in his favor. He also knew that the batter would anticipate the fast pitch and would take a hard swing.

Seconds later, a line drive soars in Damon’s direction in left center. Time almost freezes as the outcome of the game lies in the balance.

Davis is about to get on base… Hansen’s coming to the plate… Damon’s team is about to lose.

As Damon chases down the line drive bouncing in the rough grass of the outfield, Damon, in an instance of spontaneous awareness, processes everything that is happening and everything that is about to happen and executes a deceptive play on the ball – all on a whim with the game on the line.

Without any conscious thought he dipped down, trapped the ball deftly; then spun around in the wilted yellow grass as though bewildered, took a step back. There was an outcry and he could hear Merrick distinctly now, shouting, “Go on, go on!” He wheeled and threw with all his might…

Out. Out a mile. The game was over. (p. 60-61)

Even as the ball screams towards him, Damon isn’t entirely sure what he’s going to do. He finds himself in a position that requires immediate action. Damon obliges and acts.

Later on, after the spectacular game-winning assist had caused a scuffle among the troops, Damon admits to his commanding officer that this wasn’t a scheme he had tried in other games. This wasn’t planned out ahead of time. This wasn’t a case of knowing what to do because he had “been there, done that”. This was a man in the face of conflict, executing with skill and decisiveness.

Sam Damon, a humble Private in a scrimmage among troops on a baseball diamond, exhibits for us, biblical wisdom.

Wisdom is not just knowing truth; wisdom is the ability to live life skillfully.

My church is working through the book of Proverbs on Sunday mornings right now. In his introduction to the sermon series, my senior pastor offered several definitions of wisdom.

My favorite was this:  Doing the right thing without precedent.

Commenting on this definition of wisdom, Pastor Darrin explained, “[Wisdom] means you know what to do in a situation even though you’ve never experienced it before. You have built up such an understanding of life from God’s perspective that you have skills not from experience but from intuition.”

Wisdom is Sam Damon in the outfield.

In life, you are going to get a line drive hit right to you with the game on the line. There won’t be time to do research or take a survey from friends and counselors who have been there before.

You are going to have to field the ball now or you’re going to lose the game.

You are going to need wisdom.

Great. Thanks for obvious. I need wisdom. How am I supposed to get that?

Whether we turn to Chris Pratt guarding the endangered galaxy or Mitch Hedberg pointing out the irony in the mundane like the way escalators can never be “out of order” because they just turn into stairs, we are a people who love one-liners.

Star-Lord delivers the one-liners at a rapid pace. What? You’ve never heard of Star-Lord?!?

But the king of one-liners was also the king of wisdom.

He was a man wiser than any other – one who could step into a situation he had not faced before (such as handing over a baby claimed by two women) and execute with skill and decisiveness (threatening to slice the baby in half):

King Solomon, son of David.

In the book of Proverbs, Solomon drops the one-liner of all one-liners to answer the fool who doesn’t really buy into the idea that he needs wisdom to field the line drives of life with skill and precision. He says:

The beginning of wisdom is this… GET WISDOM.

Proverbs 4:7

If we want to live life with skill and decisiveness, we can’t just wait until the line drive is already heading our way and hope that we can handle it. Skill and the ability to make a decision with decisiveness come from a lifetime pursuit of discipline, character, and conviction.

Solomon sees you facing a situation you’ve never met before – parenting your kid through a new phase of growth and maturity – going through an interview process you’ve never had to endure – putting the food on the table with an income not quite at what you’ve been accustomed – and he offers a word of advice.

You need wisdom?

Get after it.

Go. Get. Wisdom.

God will be gracious to grant wisdom to those who seek it (James 1:5-6).

But wisdom requires some exercise and discipline on our own end.

Damon would not have been able to field the line drive bouncing awkwardly in the grass…

He would not have been able to fire a rocket to home plate with such accuracy and might…

He would not have recognized the likelihood of his team’s defeat in the present situation…

He would not have the wisdom needed to execute his trick play…

… had he not put in years of disciplined, physical training and rigorous study of the game of baseball.

Being prepared for life to come our way does not mean we will always know what to do when crisis strikes. But when the ball takes a hard bounce the other way and we need to fire a line back to the plate, we need to be in a position where we have done everything we possibly could ahead of time in order to be in a position to live life skillfully with decisiveness.

When life demands some hard work, we need to have taken the time to put some wisdom in our tool belt. The job is not going to get done without it.

There isn’t always time to consider options or get second opinions. The game will be over unless we act with wisdom.

So let’s go get it.

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