Baseball professionals do it almost without noticing. It’s almost as natural and involuntary for them as blinking. As I was coaching little league when our son was growing up, it seemed that we had to instruct the kids to do it with each and every play, and usually multiple times each and every play. It’s what we used to call “ready position” … kids putting their bodies in the physical position of attentiveness to the game around them, observing what was going on in case the ball was hit to them. It’s the position you need to be in to make a play. Put yourself in the right position, chances are good stuff will happen. Allow yourself to be poorly positioned, and the chances are greater than bad stuff will occur.
As I read this week through Genesis 32-50, a familiar account reminded me of the importance of our being in ready position. Joseph, the favored son of Jacob, had been sold into slavery by his brothers and was taken to Egypt. He became the most trusted aid, the right hand man of a captain of pharaoh’s guard, a guy named Potiphar. While serving in Potiphar’s house, he managed Potiphar’s affairs. The problem was, Joseph wasn’t sufficiently in ready position as it pertained to Potiphar’s wife, who made Joseph the object of her malevolent affections. The crux of the situation is told in Genesis 39:12 …
One day, however, no one else was around when he went in to do his work. She came and grabbed him by his cloak, demanding, “Come on, sleep with me!” Joseph tore himself away, but he left his cloak in her hand as he ran from the house. When she saw that she was holding his cloak and he had fled, she called out to her servants. Soon all the men came running. “Look!” she said. “My husband has brought this Hebrew slave here to make fools of us! He came into my room to rape me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream, he ran outside and got away, but he left his cloak behind with me.” She kept the cloak with her until her husband came home. Then she told him her story. “That Hebrew slave you’ve brought into our house tried to come in and fool around with me,” she said. “But when I screamed, he ran outside, leaving his cloak with me!” Potiphar was furious when he heard his wife’s story about how Joseph had treated her. So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained.
Joseph was, as we colloquially say today, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Trouble is, anytime we’re in the wrong place, it’s the wrong time. I don’t want to cast judgment on Joseph but I think it’s fair to say that Joseph wasn’t in ready position. He allowed himself to be in a stance that was unready for the situation that was going to arise. In baseball parlance, rather than playing the ball, he let the ball play him. By this time he knew that Potiphar’s wife was out to get him and yet he allowed himself to be mis-positioned straight to prison.
We stand no less perilously demised if we allow ourselves not to be in ready position in our lives. How many times have we fallen victim to sin because we didn’t somehow put ourselves in ready position? Either by staying in close fellowship with God through His word or through prayer? Or not to be in ready position because don’t allow ourselves to be in community with others who keep us accountable to the right behaviors? Or how often do we take ourselves out of ready position by putting ourselves in situations that we know don’t suit us as Christians, or that bring us to places from which we’ve asked God to deliver us?
So it is that we can be spiritually not in ready position. I know firsthand that my propensity to do unwise or sinful things is heightened by my failure to stay consistent in my spiritual disciplines. If I’m not close to God in His word, in prayer, in study, in service of others or in church, I surely take myself out of ready position and no longer can make a play on the ball, spiritually. Instead, the ball plays me. This is true whether or not I actively move myself out of ready position, or passively allow myself to be distracted or dissuaded out of ready position. It doesn’t matter if I do it or if it’s done to me … either way, I will not succeed.
So it is too that we can be physically not in ready position. I think Helen and I think of this most expressly when it comes to our son leaving for college in six short months. Perhaps it’s because she and I have both been there. We take ourselves out of ready position by hanging out in the wrong places, or with the wrong people, or doing the wrong things. It’s the old adage of guilt by association, or as Sylvester Stallone’s character said in the ever-classic movie “Rocky,” “Eh, you gotta boyfriend? No, you ain’t gotta boyfriend? Y’know why? Why do you think you don’t got a boyfriend? Because you hang out with those coconuts on the corner, y’understand? You hang out with coconuts, you get nowhere. They’re eleven, eleven. You hang out with nice people, you get nice friends, y’understand? You hang out with smart people, you get smart friends. You hang out with yo-yo people, you get yo-yo friends! Y’see, it’s simple mathematics.” Well, maybe it isn’t exactly mathematics, but it is simple. Story after story after story bears out the wisdom of being in ready position … meaning don’t hang out in dangerous places with dangerous people. Don’t fly close to the flame without expecting to get burned. Who we hang out with, where we hang out, when we hang out, what we’re doing when we’re hanging out … they all matter.
Let’s all of us prayerfully consider in what ways we’re in ready position. Ready for God to work His wonders and extend His blessings in His timing.
Soli Deo gloria!