The following story originally aired as a BreakPoint commentary on August 7.
In 1980, the New York Mets selected an 18-year-old baseball phenom, Darryl Strawberry, with the first pick in the Major League draft.
Being a Mets fan in the 1970’s was tough—just ask my BreakPoint colleagues Eric Metaxas and Roberto Rivera. So it’s not an exaggeration to say that many saw the outfielder from Crenshaw High School in LA as a potential savior for the moribund franchise. And he delivered.
Strawberry played in eight consecutive All-Star games, seven of them while playing for the Mets. And in 1986, he helped the Mets win the World Series, hitting a moonshot in the seventh and deciding game that put the game out of reach.
But while Strawberry delivered on the field, his life off the field amply demonstrated that the so-called “savior” was desperately in need of, well, a real Savior. And, God be praised, he found Him.
It was clear early on that Strawberry was, to put it mildly, a troubled young man. As a recent profile of Strawberry on HBO’s “Real Sports” told viewers, his friends worried about what would happen to Strawberry after his playing days were over.
Their fears were well-grounded. While playing, he became a regular cocaine user. And after retiring, he was in and out of rehab at least five times. He was arrested several times and spent eleven months in jail. He despaired of ever breaking his addiction. As he told a judge, he had given up on life.
Well fortunately, God had not given up on Darryl Strawberry. At a Narcotics Anonymous convention he met Tracy, a recovering addict herself. He told her to stay away from him, but she didn’t. And when he relapsed, it was Tracy who went banging on crack house doors looking for him. She took him home to her parents’ house and to St. Louis.
And when Tracy became a Christian, she eventually led Strawberry to the Savior he had desperately needed all along.
Today, Darryl and Tracy, who were married in 2006, run a ministry for people struggling with addiction. When Bernard Goldberg entered their home, he was struck by the lack of any reference to Strawberry’s big league career. He told Strawberry that he saw “no indication that [he] used to be a major league baseball player,” to which Strawberry replied “you said it clearly ‘used to be.’”
As Strawberry told Goldberg, the old Darryl Strawberry “had to die.” Not just the addict, but the self-centered celebrity, as well. In its place, there’s now a new man – just as the Gospel promises – dedicated to restoring people whose lives are teetering on the same self-destructive precipice as his once was.
There’s that word again, restoration. It’s one of the many “re” words you’ve heard us talk about here on BreakPoint. Those “re” words are what the Gospel is all about.
Look, we see evidence of human brokenness all around us. But in its midst, grace abounds. God unceasingly works to heal wounds created by sin and to restore the wholeness – the shalom – our sin causes us to forfeit.
Here at Prison Fellowship, we see it every time one of us enters a prison or stands side-by-side with families of offenders. And my Mets-devoted colleagues saw it by watching, of all things, HBO, as did anyone else who caught that special on the former baseball great Daryl Strawberry.
So why not make it a habit to look for restoration everywhere, and to join in? You can join in God’s work of restoration through Prison Fellowship. Volunteer to lead Bible studies in prison, or mentor or even employ an ex-offender.
Sign your church up for Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program. Each year Prison Fellowship partners with local churches to reach hundreds of thousands of prisoners’ children with a Christmas gift, the Gospel message, and the love of their incarcerated parent.