Memory is a funny thing. I tend to have a good memory about things that are not very significant. I spent a couple of years traveling around the USA as a workshop instructor. There were 3 of us traveling around together and I had a pretty good ability to remember details about places where we had been – layouts of the churches that would host our workshops, where we ate when we were in a given city, what we watched on TV 2 Friday Nights earlier. These are the trivial little things that for some reason, my mind grabs hold of. I would amaze my traveling cohorts with these details from weeks, even months earlier in our journey, but… I would always struggle to remember the room number of the hotel we were staying in that night. I would always have to ask, or follow them to the room because that detail, of more immediate importance, was lost on me. Even now, I have strong memories of some moments/events from years ago, but will forget one of the 3 things that I was sent to the store to pick up for the family.
As I read the story of Carlos Baerga, several thoughts and lessons on memory came to mind. I will get into them soon, but incase y0u don’t know about Baerga, here are his career highlights.
Carlos was signed by the San Diego Padres at the age of 16 in 1985. Before getting a chance to play for the Padres, he was traded to the Indians in a package for Joe Carter. He made his debut in 1990, at the age of 21. He played regularly at second, third and shortstop during his first 2 years with Cleveland. But it was in his third year with the Tribe that he really started turning some heads. He settled in as the regular second baseman for the Indians and was named to his first All Star game. He also finished 11th in the MVP voting. The next season would be his best in the majors as he set what would become career highs in average, home runs, triples, rbi and stolen bases. He would again play in the All-Star game, finish 10th in MVP voting and won his first of back-to-back Silver Slugger awards. He would play in the majors for a total of 14 seasons with 6 different teams.
But as you can read in this story from Gospel Light Society when Baerga arrived in the majors, the trappings of fame and fortune distracted him from following the God he had grown up knowing. He says “My career was going way up, and that was the moment that I really forgot about God — the God who gave me the opportunity to play in the big leagues. I used to be a super star. Everything was so good for me that I wanted to keep living that life.” The article continues, sharing the things Baerga was turning to instead of God. He says “I almost lost my family. I didn’t know the damage I was doing to myself. When you walk without God, you can be hurt at anytime.”
In 1996, Baerga was traded to the New York Mets. Before he left though, a teammate wanted to talk things over with him. Read about it in this article from CBN. It says “Before he left for New York, Carlos had a long heart-to-heart talk with long time friend Julio Franco. “I know that God put Julio there for me,” he says. “I know it because Julio was talking to me, ‘Carlos, why are you doing this? You’re born in church; you know the words of God; you know what can happen to you.’ I wasn’t listening to him.”
Baerga didn’t hear him the first time, but Franco kept talking to him and eventually, Baerga realized how far he had strayed from following God and rededicated his life to Christ. And now, in retirement, Baerga seeks to help others live for Christ, too.
Here are my takeaways from Baerga’s story
1- Forgetting God – It is a story that we have heard, and in some ways experienced. When things are going well and life is all working out like it should, we can tend to think it is because of what we are doing. We can lose sight of God and forget the commitment that we have made to following Him. It is Baerga’s story. it is my story. It is a common story to so many. It is only when the consequences of our rebellion and bad choices start to catch up with us that we remember all that Jesus accomplished on our behalf and that this life is not really about us at all, or if it is, then our priorities need some realigning.
2- Forgetful God – Check out this song by Christian Band “The Waiting” . It talks about how amazing God is but the lyric that really catches my attention and that fits with the theme of this blog post so well is from the second verse. They sing “And I’ve known your forgiveness for each and all of my days
But the way you’ve forgotten leaves me truly amazed.
This thought is taken from Isaiah 43.25 which says “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” That is the amazing thing about God. Even when we turn away from Him and act on our own selfish desires, He continues to offer us forgiveness and show us love, grace and mercy.
3 – Forget the Past – And when we see the way we have selfishly forgotten God over and over again, we can feel guilt and shame. Not only does God forget our sins, but he invites us to do the same. Paul writes in Philippians 3.13-14 “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” We can forget all that is in the past. All our bad choices, stumbles and rebellion and we can focus on Jesus who will help us in the strains that lie ahead.
God has offered us this precious gift of love, forgiveness and a clean slate. Let us not forget Him and all He has done for us, lets focus on Him and strain forward. And let’s be willing to love others enough to point them to Jesus like Baerga’s teammate did. Who is God calling you to speak out to?