Josh Hamilton and the God-Glorifying Action of Getting Back Up

I awoke this morning and checked ESPN on my phone and ran across this article, which starts:

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton suffered a drug relapse involving the use of cocaine and alcohol in the offseason, according to a New York Daily News report.

Hamilton has a well-documented history of substance abuse problems dating to his days in the minor leagues, when he was suspended from baseball from February 2004 to June 2006, for issues related to cocaine and alcohol addiction.

Hamilton, a professing Christian, was the first overall pick in the 1999 MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. But his career seemed to be cut short when drug addiction issues forced him to be suspended from the league. He was reinstated in 2006 and his professional career took off, the high point being when he won the American League MVP award in 2010 with the Texas Rangers.

Hamilton has admitted to having relapses of drug and alcohol use in 2009 and 2012, and reportedly again this past offseason. The report has led to a lot of conversation in the sports world about what should happen to him, the suspensions for drug addiction vs. performance-enhancing drugs, etc. That’s just the nature of sports journalism.

One unique nature of Hamilton’s relapse is that he reportedly self-confessed the incident to MLB. Reportedly, it wasn’t something that they found out first and he relented or denied. He came straight to the league with it.

A Bible verse that was recently shared with me came to mind when I thought more and more about the story. Proverbs 24:16 says:

For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

I want to focus on that first part. What Josh Hamilton is displaying to the world is the embodiment of the righteous falling seven times and rising again. The righteous is not the one who never falls. The righteous is the one who gets up after he falls. It could be really easy for us to just stay down after we fall. But the one who is called “righteous” gets up every time. You could even make the argument of seven being the number of completeness and that the righteous gets up every time he falls. I don’t know how I feel about the “number of completeness” thing, but if that’s what’s truly insinuated here, it makes sense.

One of the struggles we see in Hamilton’s story is one of the biggest difficulties in getting back up. Sometimes society, even the church, can be resistant to people getting back up. We see someone slip and we keep them down, we ask that they be punished, we seek to make sure they know they’re wrong. Even if they know for sure they’re wrong, we try super hard to make it even more clear. And in that “pursuit of justice,” we can limit the opportunity for real healing. Example: Mark Driscoll.

Another struggle in getting back up is that what knocks you down is more often than not stronger than you are. Addictions are stronger than the human will most of the time, if not all the time. One of the most powerful helps in addiction is fighting it alongside other people, and that’s where the first struggle plays in; if there’s no one there to help, will the addicted person get anywhere?

I don’t pretend to know a lot about substance abuse. But as a Christian who sins every day, I’ve got to remember that I show myself a Christian to others not by being perfect, but by getting back up when I fall down. It makes God look more glorious when we do this because we show that He’s worth it, He’s worth getting back up after we get knocked down.

Jesus died to give us the opportunity to get back up. So we should also give the opportunity again (yes, again) to Josh Hamilton, and to ourselves. Josh is showing us what it looks like to get back up again.

So please, if you’re down, get back up again. It’s never too late to get back up again. (Side note: I can’t believe I’m about to put a tobyMac song in my blog post.)

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