Our church, Abundant Life Tabernacle, is unique in that it cares not only for displaced children and foster kids, but also for children with various degrees of disability. I feel that our church has illustrated God’s compassion and perfection to many of these children. I’d like to share a story with you that I feel illustrates God’s perfection in our world. I believe it can help give us a fresh perspective on life and how we can demonstrate God’s perfection to our world.
The story takes place in Brooklyn, New York at a school named Chush. It’s a school that caters to learning-disabled children, some of whom remain there for their entire school career. Others are able to be mainstreamed into conventional schools along the way.
One time, at a Chush fundraising dinner, one of the fathers stood up to extol the school and its dedicated staff. He then cried out: “Where is the perfection in my son, Shay? Everything God does is done with perfection… but my child cannot understand things as other children do. My child cannot remember facts and figures as other children do. Where is God’s perfection?”
The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father’s anguish and stilled by the piercing query. “I believe,” the father answered, “that when God brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that He seeks is in the way that people react to this child. He then told the following story about his son, Shay.
One afternoon, Shay and his father walked past a park where some boys that Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, “Do you think they will let me play?” Shay’s father knew that his son was not at all an athlete and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Shay’s father understood that if his son was chosen to play, it would give him a comfortable sense of belonging. Shay’s father approached one of the boys in the field and asked if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance from his teammates. Getting none, he took matters into his own hands and said, “We’re losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning.”
Shay’s father was ecstatic as Shay smiled broadly. Shay was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field. Shay’s team scored again and now, in the bottom of the ninth inning, with two outs and bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base. Shay was scheduled to get up. Would the team actually let him bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game?
Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that it was all but impossible, because Shay didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly… let alone hit with it. However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps closer to lob the ball in, softly so Shay could make contact.
The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. One of Shay’s teammates came to Shay and together they held the bat and faced the pitcher, waiting for the next pitch. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly toward Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay and his teammate swung at the ball and together they hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first basemen. Shay would have been out and that would have ended the game.
Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far beyond the reach of the first baseman. Everyone started yelling, “Shay, run to first!” Never in his life had Shay run to first. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled. By the time he reached first base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman, who would tag out Shay, who was still running. But the right fielder understood what the right fielder’s intentions were, so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman’s head. Everyone yelled, “Run to second. Run to second.”
Shay ran toward second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases ran toward home. As Shay reached second base, the opposing shortstop ran to him, turned him in the direction of third and shouted, “Run to third!” As Shay rounded third, the players from both teams ran behind him, screaming “Shay! Run home!
Shay ran home, stepped on home plate, and all eighteen players lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero as he had just hit a grand slam and won the game for his team. “That day,” said the father, softly, with tears now rolling down his face, “those eighteen boys reached their level of God’s perfection.”
The conclusion is that, perhaps, we should attempt to reach this level of perfection, a perfection that makes a difference in the lives of others, because unfeigned love touches the heart of our Father, in Heaven. As Matthew 5:48 says, “Be perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”
Allen Whittenburg is pastor at Abundant Life Tabernacle in Exeter. Prays Together is a rotating faith-based commentary and advice column among the pastors, and guest laypeople, of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church and Lemon Cove Community Church.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.