The other night Dave and I pulled out one of our favourite DVD’s from our ever growing film collection to watch. Laid out on the sofa under a blanket with Betsy, our cavapoo snuggling next to us – she’s an excellent snuggler – we watched Moneyball. For someone who’s never really considered themselves as ‘sporty’, I never expected to enjoy a film about baseball, but it’s truly a fantastic film, faithfully retelling a true story that holds enough drama within it that there’s no need to add anything to it. The film also has Brad Pitt in it…………
Without trying to ruin the film for those who haven’t yet seen it, Moneyball tells the story of how the system for selecting baseball players changed. Players used to be selected for their skills on the pitch but also for their looks, how attractive their girlfriend was, how popular they were. Basically if they had the whole package, shiny white teeth, great hair, a good looking girl on their arms and were good at baseball then they were valuable, they were in the team, scouts would fight over them. But when faced with a small budget and the pressure to find new players, Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s, general manager employs a statistician called Peter Brand who introduces him to the most undervalued players in baseball, undervalued and overlooked for a variety of biased reasons and perceived flaws such as age, personality and appearance. With a budget significantly smaller than the big league teams Peter Brand tells Billy he believes there’s a championship team of twenty-five people they can afford, because everyone else in baseball undervalues them.
I promise I won’t spoil any more of the story for you, but the film’s tagline asks a really valuable question – ‘What are you really worth?’
This is a tough question, it’s a scary question to ask, made even more difficult to answer when shrouded by the British humility we carry with us, fearful too much self-confidence would offend. When I think about this question and the baseball players picked for Billy Beane’s team, I think the bigger question we need to ask is, how do you measure your worth?
Is your worth based on outward appearance, on living a life that fits with what’s expected of someone your age, or someone with your qualifications or someone from your family? Is your worth dependent on your dress size, your family size, the size of your salary, the size of your house, the size of your wardrobe, the size of your mobile phone, the size of your Facebook profile or Twitter followers. This list may sound trivial but I know I measure myself by these values, haunted by the feeling that compared to peers I am lacking, I am worth less.
Just over a week ago I was at the Rhythm of Hope retreat day. Sat in a room filled with couples who were living through the messy reality of infertility and childlessness. The day was filled with stories from the front, stories shared over coffee and lunch, sometimes told through tears. Stories of trying and losing out, stories of hope followed by disappointment, stories of joy followed by loss. Stories that don’t measure up to the values and standards we so often measure our worth by, stories that remain painful to share, even years later. But sat in that room, I realised I was surrounded by people with an inner strength and faith more precious and valuable than any impressive outward appearance of achievements, physical ability, beauty, status or family size. Their stories weren’t ones of victory or Hollywood endings, they were of endurance, of pain and of faith when hope has all but disappeared. Stories that are rarely told, stories and lives that for so long have been undervalued.
I don’t know why we add more worth to the stories that work out, the ones that look perfect from the outside, rushing to disown the parts of our lives where we have struggled, burying the stories that have left us limping. I remember believing I needed to wait until I was healed so that I could finally begin living a life that was worth something, that my life would have little meaning until I was a mother, I still fall into that trap at times now. But listening and sharing that day with so many wounded saints has reminded me to not undervalue my worth when I’m living in the midst of struggle. The retreat day we went to was organised and run by an amazing couple who had initially imagined hosting this day once they had their longed for family, but God had other plans, calling them to provide the most wonderful retreat day as a childless couple, as wounded healers, still living out that tension of hope and disappointment. Saltwater and Honey began because as a group we believed God was challenging us to write from the messy middle, the bit no one really likes to talk about until they’ve come out the other side. God has a habit of picking the weedy one, the one who can’t speak to lead a revolution, the barren one to populate the earth, the youngest to be a king. In 1 Samuel 16 v 7, Samuel was searching for a new king but God kept rejecting the strapping young men presented before him, telling Samuel the next king would a young shepherd boy called David. God spoke to Samuel, saying
“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Over the years I’ve been part of churches who have failed to connect with the congregation members who’s lives looked messy, unattractive and sometimes worthless from the outside, the single mother trying to keep her autistic son quiet during the service, the guy with piercings and tattoos, unable to blend in with the sea of pastel cardigans and M&S jumpers, the man who smells of alcohol, the guy who heckles from the back. The other week a member of our congregation stood up and challenged our church to talk to the elderly guy she drives to church each week. We are all guilty of undervaluing people who look different to us, or the parts of our lives that from the outside can define us to be lacking in some way, whether it’s singleness, childlessness, divorce, unemployment, debt, depression, anxiety, physical appearance or disability, the list goes on….. But I am learning that often, the parts of our stories we undervalue the most can be the ones that truly define our worth. “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”