Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What Omar Vizquel Taught Me About Discipleship


I played baseball growing up, shortstop for most of it, though I backed up my best friend at second base in high school. Yeah, that means I didn't play much at all in high school, but I really liked practice?

My favorite player to watch was the shortstop, Omar Vizquel. He is one of the top 10 shortstops of all-time and made some of the sickest plays I've ever seen in my life. The highlight video (with some sweet Spanish music as your guide) shows just how amazing he was.



I was reminded in these highlights of the aspect I admired most about him. He wasn't a power hitter by any means, though he was a great hitter. So he wasn't necessarily flashy when it came to offense. What made him great was his defense. He won the Gold Glove 11 times, nine of those being consecutive from 1993-2001 (his first was with the Mariners). This is awarded to the best player at that position, usually measured by fielding percentage. So, let's take 1995 for example. His fielding percentage was a ridiculous .985, meaning with every 1000 balls hit to him, 985 times he makes the play without committing an error. Sick.

He was quick and could get to the ball easily, but what made him so amazing to watch was his hands. His hands were vicious combination of sticky and slick. He could catch and hold on to the ball even if his hands seemed yards from the ball, as if he had some kind of vaccum attached to his wrist. But he was a shortstop and a shortstop's primary job is to get the ball in somebody else's hands. So while it was like he had sticky tape on his hands, like a flash the ball would be moving from him to wherever he had to throw it.

Tim Kurkjian over at ESPN tells it like this:
Fifty throws went to Vizquel, seemingly none of which entered his glove, then presto, the ball was in his throwing hand, and on its way back. The writer couldn't see the transfer, it was too quick, and demanded a slow-motion demonstration. Vizquel was deflecting the ball off the heel of his glove, into his hand, which was about a foot away from his glove. He had received 50 throws, none had entered the pocket of his glove, and he hadn't dropped one.
"Omar,'' the writer asked incredulously, "how are you able to do that?''
"It's magic,'' he said.
Vizquel's transfer is legendary.

So what does this have to do with discipleship? I see Vizquel and baseball as a helpful metaphor in thinking through what it means to teach others and make disciples as Jesus commands us in Matthew 28:18-20 and Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2. Three specific points come to mind.

  1. Teaching isn't meant to be kept: Think of the teaching we receive every day like a baseball. Just as the baseball is hit to Vizquel, teaching is "hit" to us all the time. There is no shortage of content in Scripture, sermons, books, blogs, conferences where we learn what it means to follow Jesus more closely and grow in Him each day. But as we catch this teaching, the first thing we must know is that we can't keep it to ourselves. It is meant to be in someone else's hands. I have learned and am learning that what I learn is also meant for others. I receive what I'm taught, wrestle with it, but I can't keep it to myself. Teaching always has an "other" focus. What you are taught, you are to teach. This is a huge aspect of discipleship. It can't be kept in your glove and then you just run off the field and say, "that was neat."
  2. Know who you're teaching and discipling: Once you have the teaching you not only know that it can't be kept to yourself, but you also have to know who it is that your throwing it to. Do you have specific people in your life that you are constantly throwing teaching to after you've learned it? Who are the players on your field you have to get the ball to in order to keep the game moving? This is helpful for me as it helps me focus on the handful of people in my life I want to keep throwing to on a regular basis. Right now that's my wife and the four men I disciple at Mars Hill. There are others who may be watching what we're doing and learn from that, but there are a handful of people I throw to directly.
  3. Make the transfer quickly: By this I mean throw what your taught to others quickly. Yes, as you learn, meditate and reflect on it, but get rid of it quickly enough to work through what your taught with those you're discipling or mentoring. I've never seen anything more effective in growing as a man of God than doing learning in community. Honestly, I am naturally not a big fan of that. I'd rather just read a book, journal, and perhaps blog about it at some point. But I see it most in my conversations with Stacy. Whatever we are reading or praying through we typically talk about the same day. She challenges me, I challenge her, and I learn something new just by hearing from her. 
Thoughts? Anything you would add to this? Too much of a stretch? I'd love to interact on this with you. Hit me up.

By His Grace.

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