"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead..." Romans 1:20

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Margin of Greatness

"The purpose of being outstanding is not to win acclaim or glory, but to be more of what we can be, and until we live up to all that we are, we shall never be satisfied." --Alan Cohen

Alan Cohen uses an example in baseball to illustrate the difference between being average and being outstanding.  To be considered an average batter you must have a .250 hitting average.  If you have a 3.0 average you are considered outstanding.  He says that means you are average if you hit 5 out of 20 balls.  But if you hit 6 balls out of 20 you are outstanding.  That is just one more hit in 20 hits to be considered great!

I was not interested in baseball until my first-born went off to college in Baltimore.  The Orioles were in the American League play-offs that September--the first time for them to get that far in a long time.  I found myself riveted to the TV watching baseball as "my" team played their heart out to get that far.  I continued to watch those young men struggle to get in the playoffs again the whole four years my first-born was in college.  I surprised even myself and can only attribute it to the fact that I adopted that team to replace the hole in my heart.  In a way I felt I "mothered" them those four years.  Then when my son graduated he stayed in Baltimore and moved in with a friend two blocks from Camden Yards where the Orioles played.  Because it was so handy to park at the house and walk over to the stadium and then be able to spend the night and not have to make the drive back home, that summer of 2001 I took my 13-year-old son to his first professional ballgame and my first-ever ballgame.  

This post was going to be about Alan Cohen's message about the "margin of greatness," but as I recall my memories about the game I attended another message is presenting itself.  I'd bought tickets for the $5 "nosebleed" seats.  The Orioles were playing the Yankees--long-time rivals.  In fact, we were surrounded by Yankee fans.  But what struck me the most was, because I'd only ever watched a game on TV, I was not prepared for the silence!  I had fully expected the game to be "announced" play-by-play.  I could barely see what was going on so I did not feel engaged at all in the game.  I kept thinking why would anyone attend a game if they could only afford to sit up in the clouds--and come all the way from New York, as I could tell by their accents, as some of these fans had.  

My only conclusion was they must have lived vicariously through their team's success.  Just as I'd "adopted" my team and followed them as a way to feel close to my son, we all too often find something to latch onto because we feel stymied in our own lives.  Cohen says, though, "You can always do a little more than you think you can....accept limitations and they confirm themselves.  Challenge them and they disappear."  He says if we don't do this we will "cease to be alive and grow."

Perhaps I haven't left the original topic after all.  Our margin of greatness lies totally in whether or not we live our lives through others vs. living our lives as we were created to do.  We only need to make that one little shift in our thinking because it turns out the word "vicarious" has more than one application.  I used it to convey the idea of "experiencing through the feelings or actions of another person."  It can also be used to convey the idea of "acting or doing for another", as in "a vicarious atonement."  Jesus was our "vicarious atonement" so that we can now live for God.  Before, we lived only for ourselves....but that's not what He created us for.  He created us for Himself and to be dependent on Him.  In this way, all that we do would be for Him.  He will give us everything we need to accomplish this and in the process we will be blessed beyond measure.  Our greatness will be His greatness.

Father, You are my all in all!  May I only live my life vicariously through you.

Link to scripture:  James 1:17 

Take action:


  1. Cathy, I understand living through something as a substitute for a hole in one's heart. When my Mama died I suddenly found myself watching the Atlanta Braves baseball games. I mean I became obsessed with it. You see I never had any interest in baseball my whole life. You've probably guessed that my Mama was a huge Atlanta Braves fan. I somehow felt her presence when I watched their games. I realized after a few years that my obsession was waning. Knowing that I couldn't find my mother there and going through the grieving process took me by suprise. I will always miss her presence....♥

    1. I think God provides these little ways to stay connected to help ease the pain of separation. He understands us very well!