In the recent issue of World magazine, Marvin Olasky has an enlightening interview with R.A. Dickey, the successful New York Mets knuckleballer. The article is titled, Worship on the Mound, and in it, Olasky asks questions regarding Dickey’s baseball career as well as his faith in God, and then presents the responses.
You may already know, but Dickey is a Tennessee native who grew up in Nashville, playing high school baseball at MBA, followed by a stellar career at the University of Tennessee. He’s won everything from a state championship to an Olympic medal, and he’s been on the national stage in the College World Series, not to mention countless ball parks around the country.
His new book, Wherever I Wind Up, which was released in March 2012, has been the subject of many on the internet, and Dickey has given one interview after another in the media. He was named to the 2012 MLB All-Star Game and was expected by most to be named the starting pitcher for the National League. However, Dickey was not given the starting nod, despite stellar stats, and his grace in responding to the decision was a testimony to who he is and his faith.
There is no doubt that, in his book or in his interviews, Dickey is a follower of Christ. He never backs away from the opportunity to share that. Even more, Dickey believes that his gift and abilities are used for God’s glory. He says:
I view what I do on the field as an act of worship. God has given me the gifts to do what I do, and when I use them fully I glorify Him.
Olasky suggests to Dickey that the knuckleball, a pitch that is essentially out of his control, is a metaphor for the mystery of God’s providence in the life of a believer. Dickey responds:
To a certain extent it is, at least for me. An element of surrender has enabled me to get to the next place with the knuckleball. An element of surrender in my own life has helped me get to the next place in my faith and relationship to Christ. I didn’t necessarily draw the parallel intentionally, but as a Christian there were so many times in my life where I wanted to control things and I would hold on to them so tightly that God couldn’t get anywhere near them—or so I thought.
In talking about the tremendous pain that Dickey endured in his life, Olasky asks how he reconciles the evil things that happened. Dickey responds:
There is a mystery to some of it, but although the evils that are manifested in this world are tough to reconcile a lot of times, that doesn’t mean God can’t use them in some way. The sexual abuse, for instance—because my wounds were deep the healing has been great. I now have a very intimate relationship with a living God whom I believe in. The deeper the wound and the more healing that has to take place, the greater God becomes. I don’t have all the answers and I don’t think that I will this side of eternity. There was a point in my life when I wasn’t OK with that, but now I’m OK with not knowing and just trusting.
For me, it has been refreshing to see a professional athlete share his faith so well. And, Dickey’s story so far has been one of endurance in his profession, faith in God, forgiveness given and received, and perseverance in his journey as a believer. I’m aware that there are many other professional athletes who are believers, and who are faithful in their testimony. Yet, R.A. Dickey has shown us that his faith is not limited to the inside of a church. It colors and forms everything in his life, including his knuckleball.