While on vacation a couple of weeks ago I read two very different books. Each book dealt with subject matter I’m interested in. One was about God and the other was about baseball. It wasn’t until I was finished with both that I realized the connection.
The baseball book I read was a biography of Mickey Mantle called, The Last Boy, by Jane Leavy. Although I was a National League fan growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I remember hearing a lot about Mickey and the Yankees. He always seemed to be the guy who had it all. Despite blowing out his knee his rookie season, he could hit with legendary power and run like a gazelle. But Mickey’s life was dark and tragic. He was both a helpless alcoholic and a chronic womanizer. For the most part, he left his four sons a legacy of abandonment and pain.
The other book I read was Dallas Willard’s, Hearing God. This is a book about developing a conversational relationship with God. Dallas deals with such questions as: Does God really talk to us? How do we discern his voice? How do we know we’re not just hearing our own voice? What part does the Bible play in all of that? This is a subject in which there has been much misunderstanding and debate. I must admit, I have been one of those guys who downplayed the idea that God speaks to us in very personal and specific ways. Willard’s book was a great corrective for me. I am now listening far more intently.
What does Mickey Mantle have to do with hearing God? Well, for one, at the end of his tragic life Mickey heard from God. While in the Betty Ford Center getting treatment for his alcoholism, Mickey got sober. Even better, Mickey heard from God and began a relationship with Jesus. His old friend and fellow Yankee, Bobby Richardson, wrote this, “Some years later in Dallas, Texas, he was in the hospital, already had a liver transplant. And my phone rang in the hotel, it was early in the morning. It was Mickey and he said, ‘I’m really hurtin.’ We had prayer together on the phone. Mickey and I talked together and as I was leaving to come back to South Carolina, I received a call that he’d taken a turn for the worst. Immediately we were on a plane flying out to Dallas. And one more time, I wanted to be bold because I wanted him to spend eternity with me in heaven – walked into Baylor Medical Center, he had a smile on his face. He said, ‘Come over here, I can’t wait to tell you this.’ He said, ‘I want you to know I’m a Christian, I’ve accepted Christ as my Savior.’” Bobby cried a little bit and helped Mickey to take his first steps as a baby Christian. A few months later Mickey died of liver cancer, but Bobby still looks forward to seeing his friend again. So do I.
Mickey’s biography also spoke to me on a personal level. His was a cautionary tale. I don’t want to wait until the end of my life to hear from God. I don’t want to leave my kids a legacy of pain. I don’t want to live in such a way now that I will die with more regrets than contentment.
Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy.
So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again,
say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’”
1 Samuel 3:8-9