Today we put up the Christmas tree. It’s always a joy to see how excited the kids get, and it’s an encouragement as we look at the various ornaments – out of sight for the past year – and the stories they tell about our lives. We have ornaments that mark our marriage, our children’s births, beloved pets, family vacations, important accomplishments and the like. These ornaments testify to God’s faithfulness in our lives – how he has provided for us, how he has directed our paths, how he has given us family, friends and each other in our journey through this life.
One of God’s greatest demonstrations of faithfulness to us will happen in just a couple of days when our two oldest children are baptized. I’ve written previously about Daniel’s conversion, which was sudden and dramatic, as many conversions are. Emmalee was a different story. Always a sweet girl with a caring, gentle spirit, Emmalee has shown evidences of God’s grace in her life for some time. She’s been telling us for the past several months that she wanted to be baptized . When she did, we’d talk to her about why she wanted to do so, what baptism meant and what the gospel message was. We wanted to be cautious, thinking that such a desire may have been just a passing fancy, and that at only 7 years of age, she may not have fully understood the significance of the matter.
But Emmalee persisted, and the more we have talked to her about baptism and salvation, the more we became convinced that God has indeed done a work of grace in her heart. We don’t know exactly the moment that the Lord changed her heart, but that’s not important. You don’t have to know when a tree was planted to recognize its fruit. After talking to our pastors, we decided that it would be fitting and appropriate for her to be baptized on the same day as her older brother.
What a joy that will be, witnessing two of my children make their public identification as followers of Christ. It is an answer to many years of fervent prayers. This has been the one thing that I’ve longed for more than anything else in life – to see my children come to Christ and to know that whatever may happen in this life, and however long I’ll have to spend with them here, a day is coming when I will be with them forever. My heart is flooded with joy and relief at that thought.
So as we begin another year of celebrating Christmas, we have many things to look forward to. We’ll enjoy watching the kids and the wonder and excitement that comes over them. We’ll have blessed times of fellowship with family and friends. But the thing I’ll remember the most from this Christmas season, and the blessing for which I am most grateful, will be the baptism of my two oldest children on Sunday. The Lord is truly faithful, and we are deeply thankful for it.
My phone rang on a recent Saturday morning as I sat with my family in a local donut shop. I saw that the caller was Union’s dean of students and knew that this wasn’t good. The dean of students doesn’t call me on a Saturday morning with tidings of comfort and joy.
“We had a student who was killed in a car accident last night,” he told me. “Her name was Leighton Williams.”
I didn’t know Leighton Williams. Had never met her. But now, I am eternally grateful for her and for the impact she has had on my family.
The Union University community is a tight-knit group, and Leighton’s death was a powerful blow to the students. I hated to see them hurt. I grieved for Leighton’s family and friends. It pained me to have to write stories about the news.
The following Tuesday I went to her visitation in Nashville and was struck by how tragic and senseless it all seemed. Here was a 20-year-old girl with a bright future. What looked like a completely random accident had changed all that, leaving heartache, despair and emptiness in its wake.
I had a meeting in Nashville later that evening and returned home to my family the next day. As we finished dinner on that Wednesday evening, the Scripture for our family devotion time was about the crucifixion. I used the occasion to speak to my three children about the gospel, and I used Leighton’s death as an example to them of why this was an urgent matter.
As Leighton went to class on Friday and prepared to travel home for the weekend, she had no idea that she was so close to eternity. Every indication was that Leighton was a believer, and I’m immensely grateful for that. But if she were like most of us, she wasn’t giving death a second thought that day.
I told my children that they needed to consider this. I told them that, like Leighton, they were only an unexpected car accident away from the beginning of eternity. They would stand before a holy God alone in their sins. No advocate. No mediator. The wrath of God amassed against them.
But I also told them that there was hope. Because of what Christ had accomplished through his sinless life, his sacrificial death and his triumphant resurrection, they didn’t need to fear such an outcome. All they had to do was trust in Christ’s work on their behalf — to believe in the gospel — and they would be saved.
My 10-year-old son Daniel was especially moved as he sat and listened to me. Later that night, after I put the kids to bed, Daniel came out of his room with tears in his eyes, saying that he wanted to be a Christian.
I talked with him about what that meant, and I truly believe that my precious son was converted that night. This was God’s answer to the prayers we have offered for his salvation for years. Daniel said later that it was Leighton’s accident that got him to thinking seriously about the state of his soul.
Leighton Williams’ death was a terribly tragedy, and I know the lives of her loved ones will never be the same. We don’t know why God allows such things to happen, and we may never know. But we do know that God is good, that he cares for his people and that he will work all things together for their good.
I do not give thanks for Leighton’s death. It was the work of Satan and the fruit of the sin and rebellion that has so thoroughly ravaged God’s perfect creation. I hated getting that call about the accident. I hated the pain and the grief that it caused. I hate it still.
I do, however, thank God with all my heart that he is a master designer and weaver. He took the tragedy of Leighton’s death and used it for something glorious and good, and my son will forever be with me in heaven because of it.
The impact of Leighton’s life didn’t stop with her death, and God in his providence has forever intertwined her with my family. Though I never met her in this life, I look forward to doing so in the next.
I love watching you create. Whether you’re sitting around the living room playing with Legos, coloring a picture or making some other crafty piece, I often will sit and watch what you’re doing.
Your creativity certainly comes from your mama and not from me. She regularly uses her skills to be a blessing to others, and I see you doing the same thing. I’m proud of the way that you color pictures for your friends, because I know your kindess will brighten their day. I’m always pleased when you want to give me one of your creations. Many times in my office I’ve sat back and smiled as I’ve looked at one of your pictures on my wall. They make me think of you, and that always makes me happy.
In the book of Acts, the Bible tells about a woman who used her skills and her creativity to bless others. Her name was Tabitha, or Dorcas.
We don’t know a lot about Dorcas, but we do know that she often made clothes to give away to other people. The Bible describes her as being “full of good works and acts of charity.” But then Dorcas got sick, and she died. Lots of people were sad because they loved her so much. She had been generous and kind, and I hope that you will grow up to be the same way.
But even more important than Dorcas’ generosity was the way that God used her life to bring glory to him. The Bible tells us that after Dorcas had died, Peter came and brought her back to life! Of course, that wasn’t because of any ability that Peter had. God was the one who raised Dorcus from the dead, and he did it to glorify himself. After Dorcas had been brought back to life, the Bible tells us that “it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.”
So Emmalee, my prayer for you as you celebrate your seventh birthday is that like Dorcas, you would grow up to be “full of good works and acts of charity.” I pray that God would continue to cultivate your creativity, and that it would be a source of joy not only for you, but for others as well. But most importantly, I pray that your life would be a giant finger pointing to the goodness and grace of God, and that he would be honored through you.
Happy birthday, my 7-year-old Sweet Pea. You bring much joy to my heart, and I love you deeply.
The very nature of your position as the oldest brother gives you a certain degree of power in our home. Your brother and sister look to you for guidance and leadership. They see how you behave and how you deal with situations. Your actions, words and attitudes have an impact on them.
Throughout your life, you’ll undoubtedly be in positions of power over other people as well. That power may come from a physical standpoint. It may come from a position you hold. Regardless, the way you choose to use the power you have says much about your character and the kind of person you are.
Take George Washington, for example. You’ve studied him in school, so you know him as the leader of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and as the first president of the United States. Washington was a fascinating man. As a youth, he worked hard to improve himself and to better his status in society. As a soldier, he was courageous under fire, regularly performing his duties even when his life was in danger. As a general, he was calm and level-headed, with a concern and devotion to the men under his command.
Washington wasn’t as smart as many of the other founding fathers, but he was incredible leader. He was confident and humble enough to surround himself with men who were better than him in many respects. His willingness to do that served him well.
But another trait of Washington’s truly established him as one of history’s greatest men. At the height of his power, first as commander of the American army and then again as president, Washington could have made himself a king of this new country. He was so popular among his men and among the citizens of the United States that few would have opposed him. He could have exalted himself among men and enjoyed all the benefits and privileges that come with supreme power.
That’s not what Washington did, however. When his work as general was finished, he willingly laid aside his enormous power and returned home to a quiet life. Years later, when his country needed him again and he became the first U.S. president, Washington could have done the same thing. As his second term of office came to an end, he could have remained as president if he so desired. But again, Washington chose to quietly slip off the scene and let others ascend to the position of leadership.
In his book, “7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness,” Eric Metaxas wrote this about Washington:
“It’s a pity that most schoolchildren today think of Washington the way he’s pictured on the dollar bill: as that slightly grumpy-looking old man. If I had my way, we’d replace those false images with portraits of the young, vibrant Washington, who can more easily be imagined dreaming big dreams, fighting significant battles, designing America’s future – and then riding home to Mount Vernon, happy to have won his battles against power itself – the great temptation that can tempt mortal man. How grateful and how mightily blessed we are that he did.”
Power can be an intoxicating thing, my son. As sinful people, we’re often tempted to exalt ourselves at the expense of others. We want to use our power for selfish purposes, to make us look good, to gain the glory and praise from our fellow men.
So my prayer for you, as you celebrate your 10th birthday, is that you would follow the example of George Washington – that you would use the power you have, both now and in the future, not for your own desires, but for the welfare and benefit of others. I pray that you would have a servant’s heart that would manifest itself even now in how you treat your siblings, your friends and your parents, and that it would continue to grow as you move toward manhood.
I pray that you would trust in Christ for your salvation, and that God would use you to be a blessing to others — so that ultimately the Lord Jesus would get the honor and the praise from the way you live.
Happy birthday, buddy. I’m glad you’re my son. I’m proud of you, and I love you deeply.
Over the past eight years in my job at Union University, I’ve written hundreds of news and feature stories for the university. None of them were more difficult to write than the one I just posted, the one that began with these words: “David S. Dockery will transition from president of Union University to the role of university chancellor no later than July 2014 …”
A little more than eight years ago, I felt stuck in my career. Some of the jobs I had didn’t work out the way I had hoped. Some of them were positions with limited upside. So at age 27, I was floundering. Though I had no serious plans to leave the job I was in, or to move away from where we were living, I still had this nagging feeling that there was something that the Lord wanted me to do. But I couldn’t seem to figure out what that was.
Then I got a call one afternoon that changed my life. It was from Kathie Chute at Union University, asking me if I had any interest in returning to my alma mater to work.
“Can I just say no, without hearing any more details?” I asked Kathie. My wife and I, and our 1-year-old son, were happy where we were. Sure, my job wasn’t what I wanted to do forever, but it was paying the bills. We had friends and a good living situation. We didn’t really want to leave.
“Yes, you can do that,” Kathie said.
I remember standing there as silence fell on our conversation. My mind raced. I took a deep breath.
“Tell me what the job is,” I told her.
That was the beginning of the path that ended with me working at Union. I came to Jackson a few days later to interview with Dr. Dockery, who I found out was closely involved with my recruitment. I had been acquainted with Dr. Dockery a little bit over the previous years, but didn’t know him well. We had a good interview, and I could sense that Union University was where the Lord was leading.
So here I am more than eight years after Dr. Dockery brought me to Union, posting a news release about his transition out of the presidency. I knew this day was coming, but I kept hoping it wouldn’t be this soon. I’ve written thousands of words about him and about all that he has accomplished here. And over the next several months, I’ll undoubtedly write thousands more. But they hardly seem sufficient to describe exactly who Dr. Dockery is and what he means to me.
I have seen Dr. Dockery in all kinds of circumstances since coming to Union. I’ve marveled at the grace and kindness he consistently shows to others. I’ve been moved by listening to his prayers — prayers that demonstrated a deep and abiding trust in the Lord. I’ve laughed with him, as his keen sense of humor surfaced regularly in meetings and conversations. And I’ve cried with him, especially after a tornado ripped through the heart of Union’s campus.
I’ll never forget the night of Feb. 5, 2008, that I spent with Dr. Dockery and Gene Fant at the Jackson police station as we did our best to figure out the details of the disaster and communicate them to a national audience. I remember the pain we felt when we got word that a couple of our students hadn’t survived, and the relief we felt when we discovered that report was wrong.
In the days that followed, I watched with amazement as Dr. Dockery exhibited such calm, determined and godly leadership in the midst of a major crisis. We didn’t know if Union University could survive as an institution in the immediate aftermath of the tornado. But a few days later, DSD vowed that God would bring renewal from the rubble that was strewn across the campus. And now, almost five years later, the university is indeed stronger than ever.
I’m thankful for the team he has assembled at Union, a team of people with whom it is a pleasure to work. These are people who are more than just coworkers to me. Many of them are also close friends.
I am exceedingly grateful to the man for allowing me to provide for my family. I’ve now lived in Jackson longer than I’ve lived anywhere else in my life, and it has become home to me. My family is part of a church that is a tremendous blessing, and we have dear friends there who are incredibly precious to us.
I also appreciate his willingness to allow me to pursue professional opportunities outside of my main job with the university. Some of the most interesting things I’ve done — covering three Olympics, reporting on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, writing a book about Albert Pujols, etc. — would not have been possible without his encouragement and support.
Though I know the Lord is ultimately responsible for these good gifts and deserves the praise for them, I also know that he used Dr. Dockery to give them to me. Dr. Dockery has been a hero in the Ellsworth home and to the Ellsworth children (Noah used to ask if we could go to “Docky Docky’s house”), and we have regularly prayed for him during our family devotion time. All of my efforts to communicate and express my deepest gratitude to him are woefully inadequate.
I’m grateful that Dr. Dockery’s days at Union are not at an end. He will remain president through July 2014, at which time he will move into the position of chancellor. While I’m thrilled about that, and optimistic about the future of the university under a new president, I’m also saddened that my working relationship with Dr. Dockery won’t be the same. Being a part of his team at Union has been one of the greatest honors and most rewarding experiences of my life.
God bless David S. Dockery. He has truly been one of God’s greatest gifts to me, and I thank the Lord for him.
One of the most memorable places I visited while I was in London this summer was Westminster Abbey, a famous church that has been the site for coronations of English kings and queens for nearly 1,000 years. The church also serves as the burial grounds for all kinds of famous people. In addition to the monarchs buried there, Westminster Abbey is the resting place for such people as Isaac Newton, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Pitt and Charles Dickens.
While it was fascinating to visit the graves of such notable people, there was one man whose grave I was especially interested in seeing – the great William Wilberforce.
Born more than 250 years ago in England, Wilberforce spent decades as a member of Parliament, where his chief passion and goal was to eliminate slavery from his nation. The practice of slavery was deeply embedded in the British economy, and its eradication was certainly a difficult task. He had powerful and dangerous enemies, and some of them threatened to kill him. His commitment to his cause also cost him several friendships, and he faced tremendous pressure to give up the crusade.
But Wilberforce refused to back down. He knew that his cause was just, and he knew that the Lord was with him, so he kept fighting year after year. His tireless efforts eventually led Great Britain to abolish the slave trade, and then to outlaw slavery entirely. Few people have had as significant of an impact upon the world as Wilberforce.
You may very well face some of the same struggles that Wilberforce did, as you grow up in a country that is increasingly hostile to Christianity. Should you choose to follow Christ, which is my most fervent prayer, you will most likely encounter ridicule, scorn and disdain from others. Our nation, which was founded upon principles of freedom — including freedom of religion — has in recent years shown little interest in protecting and securing the blessings of those liberties for itself or for future generations.
But even in the midst of opposition and hostility, I pray that the spirit of William Wilberforce will rest upon you – that you would fight for righteousness and truth, knowing that the Lord will always be with you to strengthen and guide you.
On his 41st birthday, Wilberforce prayed: “Oh Lord, purify my soul from all its stains. Warm my heart with the love of thee, animate my sluggish nature and fix my inconstancy, and volatility, that I may not be weary in well doing.”
Today, as you turn 4, I can think of no better prayer for you than that which Wilberforce prayed for himself. I pray that the Lord would purify your soul and incline your heart toward him, even at a young age, so that you would live a life of faithfulness and vibrant devotion to Christ. I pray that he would give you a passion for his work. And I pray that even when the world around you embraces wickedness and lies, the Lord would grant you strength and endurance like Wilberforce had, that you will be bold and relentless as you stand for what’s right and true.
Happy birthday, little man. You bring lots of joy into my life, and I love you very much.
One of the things that I love about you is your generous spirit. You’re usually quick to share what you have with your family and friends. When some friends were raising money a
few months ago to adopt a child, you gladly gave them a sizeable donation – not only of your own money, but of your brother’s money, too!
When I think of people who are generous, I can’t help but think of Lottie Moon. She was born into a wealthy family in Virginia in 1840. She had the benefit of a fine education, becoming one of the first women in the South to receive a master’s degree. She knew six languages.
With so many advantages, Lottie could easily have chosen to pursue a life of comfort and privilege. But that’s not what happened. The Lord changed her heart when she was 18 years old and implanted in her a missionary zeal that would change the world. At age 32, she departed from the United States for China, the country that would be her home for the rest of her life.
Lottie grew to love her Bible. In it, she wrote, “Words fail to express my love for this holy Book, my gratitude for its author, for his love and goodness. How shall I thank him for it?” She also grew to love the Chinese people deeply. In fact, she decided to abandon the way of life she knew as an American and chose to live as if she were Chinese herself.
She often lived in dirty, uncomfortable conditions as she went about ministering to the Chinese people, faithfully telling them the good news that Jesus Christ saves sinners. Late in her life, the region where she lived was devastated by war and famine. Many people went hungry. Lottie Moon gave of her own resources – and even went without food herself – so that other people could eat. She was so devoted to the Chinese people that by the time she died, she weighed just a little more than 50 pounds.
Lottie Moon’s work in China had eternal benefits. In addition to the people that she led to the Lord herself, she also became a strong advocate for global missions work, encouraging her fellow believers in the United States to follow God’s call to take Christ to the nations, and to be generous with their money in supporting mission endeavors.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Lottie Moon’s death. Since then, the Christmas offering named in her honor among Southern Baptist churches has raised $2.8 billion dollars that has been used to tell people all over the world about Jesus.
So, Emmalee, as you celebrate your sixth birthday today, my prayer for you is that you would follow the example that Lottie Moon set. I pray that you will pursue excellence in your school work. I pray that you will love the Bible the way she did. I pray that the grace of God would touch your life the way it did Lottie Moon’s, and that the Lord would grip your heart with a passion for taking the gospel to those who are perishing. And I pray that the generous heart you’ve already demonstrated would only grow in the years ahead, so that through your giving, countless others would be blessed.
Happy birthday, Sweet Pea. I’m grateful for the joy you bring into my life, and I will love you forever.
June 26, 2012
A 10-year-old boy named James knew he was going to get a new bike for his 11th birthday. That was the tradition in the English town where he lived – when boys turned 11, their birthday present was a new bike.
James undoubtedly had spent many hours dreaming of what his new bike would be like. He thought about the fun he’d have racing his friends in the streets and the freedom he’d have to wander farther from home.
So on the morning of his birthday, he rushed downstairs with anticipation and excitement, just waiting to get a glimpse of his glorious present. Imagine his surprise when he bolted into the room where his gift would be, only to discover that a bicycle wasn’t there. Instead, his parents had given him a typewriter.
A few years earlier, James had been involved in an accident that severely injured his head. His parents knew that giving him a bicycle would be dangerous. Because of his earlier injury, if James fell off his bike or crashed into something, he could have been seriously hurt or killed. So they had to come up with another option.
Though he was surprised at the gift – and maybe a bit disappointed at first – James quickly grew to understand what a special gift this was. As Alister McGrath wrote in a biography of this boy, the typewriter may not have been what he asked for, but it proved to be what he needed: “Surprise gave way to delight, as he realized what he could do with this unexpected gift,” McGrath wrote. “It was not more than a minute before he had put paper into the machine, and started to type. It proved to be his best present and the most treasured possession of his boyhood.”
This boy named James grew to be a great theologian and author, the famed J.I. Packer. Packer has written dozens of books and articles, and millions of Christians have been blessed by his work. He has helped countless people know God more deeply and grow in their walk with Christ. Church historian Mark Noll has called Packer “one of the great blessings of the modern church.”
Who knows what might have happened had he gotten that bicycle for his birthday instead of a typewriter!
That story is a great reminder that God knows what we need better than we do. There will certainly be times when things do not go the way you want them to. Disappointment and letdowns are part of life for everyone. No matter how much you may plan and hope, very little will turn out the way you expect.
But take heart, my son. We serve a sovereign God who is not caught off guard by the shifts and unexpected turns our lives may take. In fact, he is the one who is orchestrating and guiding all of them! And even though something may initially disappoint you, the Lord may take that situation and turn it into one of the greatest blessings of your life, as he did with J.I. Packer’s typewriter.
So my prayer for you, as you celebrate your 9th birthday, is that you would grow into a man who rolls with the punches and who trusts God completely — even when things don’t go your way, and even when it may seem that your life is careening out of control. The Lord will still be sitting on heaven’s throne, and he will still hold your life in his hands. He will still be kind, loving and good, and will know your needs better than you do.
As Luke tells us in Scripture, “And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Happy birthday, buddy. You are a tremendous blessing to your mother and me, and we are so proud of you.
P.S. Enjoy your new bicycle!
As you grow older and learn about some of the heroes of the Christian faith, you’ll probably not find many people whose conversions were as dramatic as John Newton’s was. Newton was quite a scoundrel in his younger days, and an evil, godless man. He was profane and vulgar, mean and cruel.
He was even an active participant in the slave trade, a horrifying practice in which Africans were captured, taken away from their homes and families and sold to owners in Europe and America. Yes, John Newton was about as bad as they come.
But like so many others, Newton was not out of the reach of God’s grace. The Lord miraculously intervened in his life, saved him from his sins and set him on the path following Christ.
“I stood in need of an Almighty Savior; and such a one I found described in the New Testament,” Newton wrote. “Thus far the Lord had wrought a marvelous thing: I was no longer an infidel: I heartily renounced my former profaneness, and had taken up some right notions; was seriously disposed, and sincerely touched with a sense of the undeserved mercy I had received, in being brought safe through so many dangers.”
Some time after his conversion, Newton became a pastor in England, a role in which he labored faithfully for more than 40 years. He was beloved by his congregations and played a key role in encouraging William Wilberforce to fight boldly against the evils of the slave trade — a profession which Newton himself once readily endorsed. The Lord had indeed changed his life in radical ways.
While many people may not know a whole lot about Newton, they certainly recognize the fruit of his labors. Newton was an outstanding writer of hymns and is best known for “Amazing Grace,” the most popular hymn ever written in English. In it, Newton poetically testifies to the wondrous grace that God bestowed upon him:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me …
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Over the past three years, you have been a tremendous blessing to me, your mom and our family. You’ve made us smile and laugh more times than we can count. We are certainly grateful to God for sending you into our home.
One of the things that your mom and I have enjoyed about you is your love for music. Your brother and sister have always liked music as well, but you’ve taken it to another level. We’ve watched you sit transfixed during concerts and other musical presentations as you listened intently to the beautiful sounds you were hearing. We’ve chuckled when you’ve jumped down from the couch to dance to the music you heard on TV, smiling the whole time.
I hope that your love for music will only increase as you get older. I have no musical skills whatsoever, other than my ability to enjoy it, so that’s one area where I hope you don’t take after me. Music is a tremendous blessing from God, and I hope your life will be filled with the happiness and joy that music can bring.
But my prayer for you, as you celebrate your third birthday, is that God would do more than cultivate your love for music. I pray that he would implant a song of grace in your soul, and that you would be able to echo these words of the great hymn “To Christ the Lord Let Every Tongue”:
A thousand men could not compose
A worthy song to bring
Yet your love is a melody
Our hearts can’t help but sing!
I pray that you would be as captivated by the mercy and grace of God as John Newton was. I pray that the Lord would save you while you are still a child and spare you from so much of the wickedness that characterized Newton’s early years. And I pray that the faith God imparts to you would grow over the years, so that the deepest burning of your heart would be the same thing that Newton wrote about so many years ago:
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
Happy birthday, little buddy. I love you so much, and I’m so thankful for the music you’ve brought to our lives.
My son Daniel and I were just at one of the most thrilling World Series games in history. After playing incredibly sloppy baseball for most of it, the Cardinals tied it in the ninth, tied it again in the 10th and won it on a David Freese walk-off homer in the 11th.
And I’m sitting here trying to come to grips with the fact that I left after the seventh.
Had I been by myself or with another adult, there’s no way I would have taken off. Yes, I was incredibly frustrated with the way the Cardinals were playing. Matt Holliday cost the Cards a run when he missed a fly ball in left field and another run when he inexplicably got picked off third base. Freese himself dropped a routine pop fly that gave the Rangers another run.
So after Texas pulled ahead by three runs in the seventh inning, it certainly seemed like the game was over. The Cardinals showed no indications that they wanted to win the game, and it was reasonable to conclude that they were done. Lots of other fans headed for the exits after the seventh inning as well.
Add to that the fact that Daniel was shivering and tired. It was a cold night, and although we dressed warmly, he doesn’t have as much natural padding as his dad does. So he had been feeling the cold for a couple of innings, and the temperature was dropping. He was also ready for bed. I felt bad for him, and I would have felt worse had we stayed through nine innings and the Cardinals lost the way I expected them to. I wanted the night to be an enjoyable one – and not a miserable one — for my son.
I knew I was running this risk when I decided to take Daniel with me to the game. But I also knew that it was a risk worth taking. I was 8 years old in 1982 when the Cardinals won the World Series, and ever since then the names of Andujar, Ozzie, Herr, McGee, Hernandez, Hendrick, Forsch, Horton, Porter and others have formed a pantheon of heroes for me. Since Daniel is 8, I’ve thought in recent days how special it would be if St. Louis could manage to win the Series this year. It would be even more special if we got to go to one of the games together.
So when I got two tickets from a friend for game 6, I jumped at the chance, and I knew I wanted to take Daniel with me. I thought he’d be fine. He’s gone to games with me before and stayed for the duration of them, and he’s been wanting to stay up late and watch the World Series games this year. I really thought he’d be OK.
But then after we arrived in St. Louis yesterday, the game got postponed because of foul weather. We went swimming at the hotel, and spent the first part of today doing other things around St. Louis. I think he was just worn out. So instead of forcing him to suck it up and tough it out, I relented and told him we’d go back to the hotel.
While we were waiting for the train, I heard the fireworks at the stadium and knew something had happened. I checked the score on my phone and saw that Allen Craig had homered to cut the Texas lead to 7-5.
We made it to our destination station, and then hopped aboard a bus to get us back to the hotel. As we sat waiting on the bus, I checked the score again. Albert Pujols doubled in the ninth. Lance Berkman walked. With two outs and two strikes, Freese tripled in both runs to tie the game.
Great, I think. It figures the Cards would end up making a game of this.
Josh Hamilton confirmed the wisdom of my decision a few minutes later when he homered in the top of the 10th to give the Rangers another two-run lead. But then I regretted the decision again in the bottom of the inning when Berkman stroked a two-out single to drive in the tying run. When Freese won the game in the 11th, I didn’t know what to think. I was ecstatic about the win, raising my hands in triumph and shaking my head in astonishment at the comeback the Cardinals had just pulled off.
At the same time, I was kicking myself. I could have been there to see it, and I wasn’t.
I’m still sitting here wondering if I made the right decision. Maybe I should have forced Daniel to sit there in the cold, just in case something historical happened. And I’m sure one of these days, when Daniel is old enough to truly appreciate the magnitude of the game 6 excitement, he’ll undoubtedly be apoplectic. “We were there for that game and missed the ending?” he’ll probably ask me. “Why didn’t you make me stay? I was just a kid who didn’t know any better.” It’s probably what I would have said to my dad in a similar situation. I guess I’ll have to take my medicine if and when that day comes.
But as I think of my son, exhausted, now lying asleep in his hotel bed, I’ll choose instead to think of the night we got to spend with each other. We had the opportunity to go to World Series game 6 together. We got to visit with some of the umpires outside their locker room before the game. Daniel actually got to go into their locker room for a few minutes, and Bruce Froemming loaded him down with candy and treats.
We cheered Lance Berkman’s first inning homer and groaned together at the bumbling errors the Cardinals kept making. Freese (when he botched the pop fly) gave me a vivid illustration of why I tell Daniel to use two hands when catching the ball. We waved rally towels and talked about baseball and dogs (Daniel’s two favorite topics).
As I sat in my hotel room watching Freese smack his game-winning homer, I looked at Daniel sleeping soundly, and felt an immense amount of gratitude. Even though we missed the ending, we’ll forever be able to say that we were there for that game. We’ll undoubtedly share many conversations in the years ahead about what might have been. And someday, maybe this episode will be just one proof to Daniel that he has a dad who loves him more than baseball.