Every January for the past six years I have attended a weekend men’s retreat put on by Unlimited Potential, Inc. This year it was held in Cave Creek, AZ, but in the past we always met up in Prescott, AZ at a campground. The unique thing about the campground is the diversity of the attendees. In our case we have 70 men in professional baseball ranging from 20 to 70 years of age in our cabins. In other parts of the campground you have families with young kids and church groups.
Within our group of men, we are pretty diverse as well. You have Major League All-Stars like Paul Goldschmidt, Minor League players scratching to make it, veterans of the game who have been around for 30 years plus and Minor League chaplains who have a heart for Jesus and the game of baseball. I typically gravitate towards the older men to try and glean some wisdom from them. They have been through so much in life, and I want to learn from their successes and mistakes.
Hearing God’s voice
Up at the retreat three years ago I had a life changing event happen to me during lunch. We were in the cafeteria chowing down and there were probably 40 to 50 tables in the room. At one table was a family with their young son and daughter. Next to them was a table with a handful of guys from our retreat and one of them was Dave Dravecky. I was sitting a table away finishing up my meal and I observed the young boy staring at Dave. What transpired was an amazing moment for me.
Dave pitched in the big leagues from 1982-1989 with the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants. He was an All-Star in 1983 and pitched in the postseason in 1984 and 1987. In 25 2/3 innings of playoff baseball, he only gave up one run. As good of a pitcher as Dave was, he was better known in baseball for his strong faith which would be tested in 1988.
At the end of the ’88 season Dave underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his pitching arm. The doctors removed half of his deltoid muscle and had to freeze the humerus bone to eliminate all of the cancer cells. He underwent a rigorous rehab process and returned to the mound in the big leagues in August of 1989. In his first start he pitched 8 innings and the Giants defeated the Reds. In next outing would be his last. In the 6th inning against the Expos, Dave threw a pitch and his pitching arm broke. I am told the snap could be heard throughout the stadium.
Two years and multiple surgeries later, doctors advised Dave to have his left arm amputated. Even though his playing career ended, he went on to become a vibrant public speaker. He used an event that may have crushed other men’s spirits to speak life into others with an encouraging message of faith, determination and hope. My first interaction with him was when he came and spoke to the Giants minor league coaches and players. I got to know him more as a man at the retreats the past few years.
So, let’s circle back to the cafeteria up in Prescott. Dave caught a glimpse of the young boy staring at his left side. In the place where his arm used to be was an empty sleeve dangling. Dave flashed a big smile and called the boy over. He asked him if he wanted to get a closer look. The boy seemed a little shy at first. Then Dave pulled up his sleeve to show him what was remaining and made a joke about armpit hair. The boy gave out a little laugh and his eyes got big as saucers as he surveyed the area.
At that moment I heard a soft voice whisper in my ear “Embrace it, because you can’t erase it.” I haven’t heard the sound very often, but you know where it is from. It’s the voice you hear when you are in communion with God. I had chills go up and down my spine and I decided that I would wait the situation out once the family left. God was encouraging me to share this message with Dave. This was the point where the relationship that Dave and I had went from being acquaintances to friends.
Turning a negative into a positive
Let’s face it. Dave has been stared at as much as a supermodel over the past 20 years for different reasons. I mean Dave is a handsome man, but many of us have been busted by our wives and girlfriends for staring at something that was not her left arm. He could have blown the kid off or stared back at him with a look of “What do you want?” and you probably wouldn’t blame him. After a while it would have to get old. However, Dave has made the decision to turn a devastating moment in his life into a ministry to share God’s message.
How many of us have been in this type of situation? You may not have lost a limb, but maybe there has been something that rocked your world so hard you wondered if you should go on living. Well the answer always is YES. I do not like to look back into my past and remember hard times. Reopening scars is painful. However, these moments are part of our testimony and without the test there is no testimony. You can use what has happened to you, to help others. A few months ago I wrote a blog titled “We are in this together” and I encourage you to check it out.
“Without the test, there is no testimony.”Unknown
We are called to love one another. Pick up the guy next to you when he is knocked down. Be vulnerable and help someone who is struggling with a difficult situation. Maybe you were in something similar years ago and you can give him some advice that will help him get through it. I like super heros and one of the coolest ones is Batman because he has a utility belt. There are all kinds of gadgets on it that help him in times of need. We all have this belt and it is filled with our experiences. Use them to help your fellow man. To learn more about Dave, I encourage you to go to his website, davedravecky.com.
Here are some points to think about this week:
- Read the bible and pray so you can get in communion with God
- Own your past and look for ways to use it to help others
- Surround yourself with other strong men who you will hold you accountable for what you say and do
- If you are holding on to any past hurts, forgive yourself and anyone who has done you dirty
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