Right field. Every kid knows what it means to play right field. It means you’re not a playmaker. You’re not fast or a good glove. Coach doesn’t entrust bottoms of fifth innings to the awkward kid whose uniform doesn’t quite match. Right field is where you play when you’re not a player. You’re not there to make a play but so that you won’t have to. It’s the little league version of exile.
Right fielders don’t win games. They lose them.
Sure, you’re on the team and are obliged some playing time when the game is all but over. But games are not settled in right field. At least the coach hopes not, which is why you’re there. You get applauded for hustling on and off the field, hopefully without suffering the team a collective gasp because the cleanup hitter chased an outside pitch. No one, not even you, hopes the big Simmons kid hits to right. Except Simmons, of course. He would run for days.
Not much changes when you’re the old, fat guy on the church league slow-pitch team, either. God be praised for a fourth outfielder.
It’s one thing to play right field as a kid. It’s quite another to feel like the right fielder in the church. The scars of the former fade at the beginning of football season or the flattering interest of Simmons’ sister. The latter, however, is far more difficult to overcome.
We live in a celebrity-crazed culture. We want to know people who know people and be known by people who know people. So we write blogs and plaster Facebook and retweet. No one wants to be the right fielder: overlooked, undertrusted, exiled.
What is the view from right field in the church? Sure, you’re on the team and are obliged some playing time. But not where the serious ministry happens. That is for the players. You’re there to fill a spot and hopefully no one hits a hard one your way. Just don’t screw anything up.
While everyone is focused on the “real” game, there you are every week. Suited up. Hustling to your position. Treating every soul with all the seriousness of a hall-of-famer. You go home with little attention and little encouragement.
It is no fun feeling like the right fielder. Having spent the last year booting my share of ground balls mundane ministry can feel like degrading exile. It might well feel like God is obliged to play you but only when and where you can do the least harm.
But God is a Precious Coach. He skims past the leadoff hitters and gold glovers to find the right fielder. The all stars get their share of praise in this life. God makes sure the right fielder is afforded all the honor due one for whom Christ died.
“. . . it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another” (1 Cor 12.22-25).
While the world clamors for its fifteen minutes of fame, Jesus has his eye on the hapless right fielder. “It is much truer that” he creates a church who loves those the world ignores. The church restores those the world crucifies. The world knows the famous but Jesus knows the anonymous. In fact, he calls them by name (Jn 10.3).
I suppose in the end we’re all right fielders in God’s kingdom. We’re playing a game already won by the Champion who became a right fielder himself. We cannot lose the game. All the same, let’s hustle to our position as Christ has taught us. A lefty is on deck.