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March 24, 2007
Roy Halladay is Toronto Blue Jays’ ace pitcher and is one of the top players in baseball. Halladay has a well-established routine that begins as soon as a game is complete and continues until the next game has begun five or six days later. He has another routine which takes him from the end of one season to the beginning of the next. And, like many players, has a routine which takes him from pitch-to-pitch. His off-season regimen, which prepares him for a long and grueling season of baseball, is legendary and readies more than his arm. To prepare his mind he reads The Mental ABC’s of Pitching seven or eight times every season. To hone his concentration he carries with him a series of laminate grids filled with 100 randomly numbered squares that he crosses off in order, from 00 to 99, with an erasable marker. “Every day that I’m not pitching, I’m doing something that’s going to help me when I’m out there, not just vegging on the bench or in the hotel room,” he says. To prepare his body he works out constantly and so vigorously that he rarely breaks into a sweat during a game. He has the reputation of being the team’s hardest worker. Not surprisingly, he is also the team’s best player. His team members flock to him, eager to learn from his routine so they, in turn, can become better players. While Halladay is clearly a talented athlete, what sets him apart is his preparation. He prepares to pitch by rigorously preparing himself both physically and mentally. He tends to more than his arm, but looks to his entire body and mind. He knows that to be a great player requires skill and preparation in a wide variety of disciplines.
I have been thinking about what is necessary to be a man or woman of discernment (and you’ll have to forgive me for the constant discernment talk these days. For obvious reasons it is much on my mind). It is clear that discernment is not a discipline that can be pursued on its own. A person who wishes to be discerning cannot simply read and study the passages of the Bible dealing with discernment. He cannot concentrate only on making the black-and-white decisions necessitated by discernment. Rather, he must look further and prepare himself in a variety of disciplines. He must be a person who prays, who studies the Bible, who is committed to a local church, and so on. He must maintain a particular posture. This makes me think of a sprinter. Just as a person who wishes to win a sprint will have to begin the race in a certain posture, crouched low with legs ready to spring forward, a person who wishes to be discerning must maintain a particular spiritual posture.
While this idea of spiritual posture arose from my musings on discernment, I have come to see that it has wide application. In any discipline of the Christian life, we need to have a certain kind of posture. There is nothing a Christian does or practices that is isolated from everything else. Too often I get hung up on one thing. I emphasize prayer and let Bible-reading slip. I emphasize reading my Bible and let prayer slip. But these disciplines are necessarily inter-related and together form the posture that allows me to run the race in a way that brings glory to God.