R.A.Dickey, Knuckleballs, and Marriage

Cy Young Award winner and knuckleball pitching ace R. A. Dickey has recently shared on 60 Minutes and in his recent book about his exposure to alcoholism, sexual abuse, and infidelity.  He inspires those who seek to be authentic in marriage and life. (Reposted from September 2012)

barbie-ken-wedding-1Every detail of even a simple wedding is painstakingly planned and executed. Attire, flowers, and music are selected with care.  Grown men and women practice walking in and out, under the watchful eye of the wedding director. There is no room for spontaneity or surprise.

Unless, of course, you happen to be me, and just as vows are to be exchanged a 240-pound groomsman locks his knees and crashes to the floor in a dead faint.

Though I was not pleased at the time, that event was probably the best part of the whole ceremony. We could have skipped the homily and taken this message from wedding to marriage:  no matter how carefully you prepare and plan, things are never perfect, something is bound to go wrong, and it just might be, as my grandmother would say “in front of God and everybody.”   So, get over it!  We couldn’t even pull off a perfect wedding, let alone a perfect marriage.

So often though, in weddings and marriages, we go to great expense and effort to promote the illusion that everything is perfect, or even that everything is “just fine”, when in reality it isn’t.  We struggle and keep our distance from people at work, in the neighborhood and at church, not wanting to be found out, not even by our pastor, perhaps especially by our pastor.

We hold it together, looking good on the outside, until everything crashes to the ground.  We worry more about our reputation than our marriage. We aren’t willing to be authentic.

It is understandable that we do this. Despite the popularity of reality TV, most of us “nice” people would rather not air our dirty laundry.  Out of respect for our spouses and marriages, we don’t want to air their dirty laundry either.  Idle chatter about a spouse can violate trust and do grave harm to the marriage.

But sometimes there are things that simply must be addressed, and we cannot let our concerns about what others think keep us from confronting our problems. If we stay quiet, attempting to maintain the illusion of a perfect marriage, we shut ourselves off from the help we need.

And we live lives of quiet desperation.

We wrestle with private sin, flirtations, and dalliances that are not content to stay small and unobtrusive.  We battle alone, not wanting to reveal our weakness to pastors and friends who could provide accountability and guidance.

Our marriages are starving to death from lack of the physical intimacy that feeds the marriage, and we are too embarrassed or prideful to get help from doctors, counselors, or even wise and discreet friends.

Some of us throw ourselves into work, volunteering, or obsessing over our children’s activities and accomplishments and build a cocoon of busyness that shields us from confronting a lifeless marriage.

Others may seek to numb or escape troubles at home with eating, alcohol, or even pornographic novels, astoundingly marketed to “mainstream” women, which have singlehandedly lifted the stock price of Barnes and Noble.

We conceal our shame and hide, imprisoned in struggling marriages, because in our core we really don’t believe things can get better.  Some of us haven’t heard of the power and promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Others have heard but live as it we don’t really believe it.

We fear the truth, but the Bible tells us that the truth will make us free.  The truth may be at odds with a good reputation or the illusion of a perfect marriage. The truth might disappoint.

The truth might bring shame upon us in the eyes of the world,  but there is freedom and hope in truth.

dickey.book1In Wherever I Wind Up, a book that has shaken the little bubble in which I live in Nashville, Tennessee, former hometown hero and current Blue Jays knuckleball pitching ace R.A. Dickey has opened up about the alcoholism, sexual abuse and infidelity that has affected his life.

Born into a local family, which has, like most families, a mix of the struggling and the highly successful, his childhood included exposure to alcoholism from within his family and sexual abuse from outside the family.  He married into another well-known local family, one that appears to be just about as perfect as a family can be.

He tells the improbable and inspiring story of his slow rise to the top of Major League baseball.  And he also shares, perhaps most surprisingly of all, how he and his wife fought together with the help of Christian counselors, friends, and pastors for the survival of their marriage after his infidelity.

People with his background, in Nashville, Tennessee, just don’t write tell-all books.

Not only is it a rarity in the proper circles of Nashville, but prominent men and their wives, in loving marriages anywhere that have survived previously unrevealed or even little-known infidelity just don’t include it in books.

But he did.  And he did it because he doesn’t fear the truth.  And he doesn’t fear the truth because he knows the real power and strength of the Gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ is the King, that He has defeated sin, and that through Him we may live fearlessly.

Although R.A. attended the same high school that my boys attend, I don’t know R.A. and his wife personally. I do, however, know members of each of their extended families.   They are all energetic, funny, and bold.  They live zestfully and aggressively, and seek to honor God in their lives.  Theirs is a gritty and manly faith, a faith that recognizes strength when it sees it.

They understand the truth.  We should never be surprised at our own sin or at the sin of others.  Given the right circumstances and temptations we could be vulnerable to commit all sorts of sin.

But, that is not the whole story.  We also have been redeemed.  Through our union with Christ we have the power to triumph over temptation.

And, when we fall, we know that there is always a way forward – a well-worn path through repentance, confession, forgiveness, restoration and hope. 

 R. A. Dickey has been willing to walk down this path in front of us, telling the hard truth, showing by his example the power of the Gospel to redeem a man and restore a marriage. We don’t have to continue to hide, in service to the idol of a good reputation.

Dickey subtitled his book My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball.

I’d say he is making good progress on all three.

Last fall R.A. Dickey was given the Cy Young Award for the top pitcher in the National League and was earlier awarded the prestigious Branch Rickey Award for humanitarian service.  His book Wherever I Wind Up is available here from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter here.

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