Our sons were - and are - crazy about baseball. Now our grandsons are. They know the players, the standings, the stats. Crazy about baseball.
But dark clouds have again rolled in over America's baseball stadiums. With reports that some stars - kids' heroes - cheated to be great.
PED are not the initials for some new government program. It's a performance-enhancing steroid. Yes, it's against the rules of baseball to have it in your system. But, hey, it's all about winning, right? And, besides, I'm a star and the rules don't really apply to me, right?
Let's face it. In professional sports, the bucks are big, the pressure is big, the temptations are big.
But no one's bigger than the rules. Breaking them may help you win the game, but at a high price. You trade your priceless character for some cheap victories. Your accomplishments aren't really you - they're you plus the drugs. What could have been the Hall of Fame is overshadowed by the Hall of Shame.
But before we put on our black robe to judge some baseball players, maybe we should look in the mirror. I'm a very goal-oriented person. I know if you've got a goal, somewhere you'll be tempted to compromise to get there.
Because we're all susceptible to the "win, no matter what" drumbeat of our culture. We want to win in business. In having "super kids" to make us "super-parents." In getting the girl, to land the guy. Whatever our arena, we're driven to come out on top.
Whatever the cost. To our family. To our integrity. Our health. Our future. If "winning" means backstabbing, stepping on people, neglecting people, breaking promises, lying, betraying - hey, it's all about winning, right? All about getting to our big goal, right?
No. It's all about your soul. Your character. Who you are, not what you accomplish. It's about giving the game your very best - without regrets, without compromises. Without betraying trust or leaving a trail of tears.
After all, who can afford the most costly trade there is? Gaining the world in exchange for your soul.
That's why integrity's so important. The Bible says, "The integrity of the upright guides them." Your integrity's like a missile's internal guidance system - guaranteeing you stay on course and reach your target. So even if I "lose," I win. My soul was not on sale for success.
That integrity Bible verse concludes, "But the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity" (Proverbs 11:30). Whatever I might gain by compromising, I have so much more to lose.
I've had some disturbingly sad conversations with folks who were nearing the end of their life. People trying to come to terms with haunting regrets. About what - or who - they sacrificed to succeed.
Sadly, there are no do-overs. But - and for this I'm profoundly grateful - there is forgiveness. A man who had terribly failed his God, his family and his followers wrote: "If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness" (Psalm 130:3).
Oh, it's not cheap to have every sin of your past erased from God's book. It takes blood. But not mine. In God's words, "The blood of Jesus His Son purifies us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
All sin. However heinous, however hurtful. Covered by the payment made for it when Jesus hung on a cross.
And once I've embraced Him as the Forgiver of my sin, He gives me the grace to retrace my regrets. To work to restore what - or who - I've hurt.
Because Jesus said, "I make all things new" (Revelation 21:5).