It’s Never About You
Former baseball All-Star, Darryl Strawberry, along with his wife Tracy, declare that the most important thing for one's true identity is living God's plan.
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Former baseball All-Star, Darryl Strawberry, along with his wife Tracy, declare that the most important thing for one’s true identity is living God’s plan.
Darryl: You know, ego in a man is very big. You’ve [Dave] been around locker rooms—and you know what it is like—the ego and the loud talking. That’s a three letter word—EGO—Easing God Out. That’s what most guys end up doing; they ease God out of their life, and they play god for themselves.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: After 33 seasons of working in the NFL as a chaplain, one of the things we have seen, I think, is that so many players find their identity in their job.
Dave: It’s almost like they do not know who they are apart from—
Dave: —that identity.
Ann: We’ve had a chance to work with both the husbands and the wives, and the divorce rate among pro-athletes is about 85 percent. A lot of times, that divorce doesn’t come until after they are done playing. I think part of the reason is because, apart from their sport, these guys don’t know who they are.
Dave: Yes, that’s been their identity their whole life.
Well, we have a couple with us today, who has a title of an incredible sports legacy; but it’s not their identity.
Dave: Darryl Strawberry and his wife Tracy are with us. Many already know Darryl from Major League Baseball. I bet they don’t know Tracy, and she is dynamite.
Ann: Yes; so welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Darryl: Thanks you guys.
Tracy: Thanks for having us.
Dave: Yes, we are glad to have you here. You played 17 years in the League, All-Star games, World Series titles; and you’ve written a book—
Ann: —four times.
Dave: —four times—written a book called Turn Your Season Around: How God Transforms Your Life.
I’ve got to be honest: the first time I heard that Darryl Strawberry had become a Christian—I was that skeptic—and then when I met you, not just here but in other places, and then had heard your testimony, I’m like, “This is the real deal! He loves Jesus!” [Laughter] I don’t want to offend you with that, but have you ever heard that before?
Darryl: It doesn’t, because a lot of people think that way: “How could that happen?—from the lifestyle he had, to brokenness of who he was, and what we saw: the headlines, and the stories, and the jail/the arrest,”—just so many different things. People say, “There is no way; there is no way. Now, all of a sudden, he’s talking about Jesus.”
Darryl: Of course, a lot of my teammates thought that way, too/former teammates. They were like, “Well, we’ll see how long this will last.” Well, it’s been about 19 years now, and we’ve still been walking with Jesus. It’s a great walk. It’s not a man’s transformation; it’s God’s transformation.
See, when we experience that in our life for real—and we don’t straddle the fence, and don’t be a hypocrite anymore, and talking about Jesus and just saying His name—and knowing His power, which is far greater than just knowing His name—I think too many professional people have that: “Oh, yes, praise God,” “Thank God,” “Glory to God”; but they never have that real transformation encounter with Christ. I came to that place, where I had an encounter with Christ for real.
I really am so grateful that I had the encounter—and just didn’t know His name anymore—because we have the wrong identity, because we built this identity of who we are in what we do instead of who we are and the character of who we are. There’s two different places that people go to: what we do has nothing to do with character.
Darryl: It’s a big difference in the character of man because the character of a man, when he comes to know God, he starts to shape his life in God’s plan. He becomes a different person: and he walks a different way; he talks a different way; he acts a different way.
A lot of the guys that I played with/they are still waiting for me to come back, Dave. They are still hanging out: “Oh, he’ll be back one day.” Well, I think some of them are truly convinced that: “He’s not coming; he’s gone. He’s really serious about—
Ann: —he is a new creation.
Tracy: Praise God; amen.
Darryl: —born of a different spirit: living a different way, and understanding the biblical principles, and living according to that.
I always tell them: “It doesn’t make me better than anyone. I just made a final decision that I was going to follow Jesus: I was going to die to myself; I was going to pick up my cross, and I was going to follow Jesus. That’s what a real believer becomes about when he denies himself. It’s no longer about me.”
You know, ego in a man is very big. You’ve [Dave] been around locker rooms—and you know what it is like—the ego and the loud talking. That’s a three letter word—EGO—Easing God Out. That’s what most guys end up doing; they ease God out of their life, and they play god for themselves. They run raggedy until it’s over and nowhere else to go. Hopefully, it’s not too late that they can look up—just like I was able to before it was too late—what I mean by too late is, when you are dead, you can’t find Him; you know?
People always say to me, “How did you find Jesus?” “Jesus has never been lost! [Laughter] What do you mean: ‘How did I find Jesus?’ He’s not lost.
Tracy: He’s waiting on you.
Darryl: “He’s just waiting for you. He’s waiting for you to come and make a commitment—you to surrender yourself to Him—He has always been waiting for you. He always will be waiting for you.
Hopefully, more guys, who play professional sports, will have that encounter while they are playing sports or after they are done playing sports; but hopefully, they get to that place of having that encounter with Christ so they can identify themselves as the right person.
Dave: Well, talk about, a little bit, the new creation part; because we’ve already talked about: you get to the Bigs; you end up addicted; you’re $3 million in debt; you’re sort of in the gutter. When you said that, I thought, “Oh, he’s just talking about…”—no, you’re almost, literally, in the gutter. Tracy and you walk into each other’s lives at a rehab—
Darryl: —a convention
Dave: —a rehab convention, where you are both there to try and get your broken lives back together.
Ann: Tracy, you were at a point, where you were about to lose custody of your kids—
Ann: —because of your own addiction; but you had given your life to Christ.
Ann: You wanted to follow Him and begin anew.
Tracy: Yes; I was brand-new saved, not knowing what saved was. I was tough; I was strong, rough around the edges, working out my own walk with Christ.
I came to a crossroads in my own walk with Jesus, thinking, “Okay; well, I got saved. I am no longer doing drugs; I’m not drinking alcohol anymore. Lord, I’m trying to live for You; so surely, I will win the custody case and, for sure, because I’m a good girl now,”—and that doesn’t happen.
But this—I want somebody to hear this, because this happens along the way in everyone’s life—and this is where you learn real biblical truth and real biblical faith. This defined my faith—I had a choice to make—“Was I going to walk away from Christ; or was I going to run into Him, with my anger, and my emotion, and everything I didn’t understand?” I made the right choice; I ran into Him.
Ann: —even though you didn’t get what you wanted at that time.
Tracy: —even though I didn’t get what I wanted at the time.
I share that story because that’s very important, going back to Darryl and me, when he and I met—and letting your faith evolve in the midst of the hardship, in the midst of confusion, in the midst of what doesn’t make sense, in the midst of your pain, in the waiting—when you’re in the waiting, and weary, and you’re hurt, and the expectation is there—you’re crushed over, and over, and over again—what do you do?
Darryl and I were going through this within our relationship, because we were trying to love each other; but we weren’t equipped to love each other. We were wounded. We were making each other pay the price for our wounds; we were making each other pay the price for all the past that we were bringing in. We had a whole lot of story, but we didn’t have the love of the Savior. We had a whole lot of story and a whole lot of past that we could sit around, and talk long hours about, but there was no power. There was earthly passion, even lustful passion; but there was not the obedience of Christ in us.
Ann: Darryl, were you a believer at that point?
Darryl: I was. I was lost in the midst of who I was and everything, and I got saved in ‘91 at a crusade. We didn’t know if we were going to be together; we didn’t know what our plans were or anything. We just really had to let go and let God be God in the process; because we didn’t stay together,—
Darryl: —because I was still the bad boy. She had to let me go, and I had to go on my journey. I had to go on my journey to get well. I went to my sister’s house—Regina—and I stayed with her three kids in a two-bedroom apartment.
I got on my journey and got well with God. I went—I stopped using drugs, and stopped having sex; I stopped smoking cigarettes—I stopped doing all these different things, and I just saturated myself in the Word of God for six months. And then God sent me back to marry Tracy, and do it right, and go back and start. We started on a journey with nothing.
I always say—people say, “Well, what do you call God’s plan for your life?”—“God’s plan—He rescued me, He redeemed me, and He restored me—that’s what He does if you walk out His plan, not your plan.” Everybody wants it their way; but me and Tracy finally realized it didn’t have to be our way; it needed to be God’s way. If we put it in God’s hands, and trusted God like we said we trusted God, and understand the Bible like you understand the Bible, now, you can fulfill the life that God wants you to have together as one.
There is no I in team. People need to understand that for a team to come together; marriage is a team.
Darryl: And for a team to come together to win, it cannot be about I; it has to be about us. We have to walk through these things together, and we walk through that whole process together.
Ann: I’m curious—take me back to 1991—you give your life to Christ. Was there any discipleship along the way after that?
Darryl: No; that was the part I missed right there. I got radically saved at this crusade, and I accepted Christ. I had this moment—like everybody comes down to the altar; they have this moment—but then what is next? Most people don’t get discipled—they don’t go through the discipleship—you miss that part. That is the most important part for one to receive—is the discipleship part—so he can grow, and he can understand who he is in Christ.
If you don’t—I remember I had just signed the biggest contract of my life, $20 million contract—I should have been happy. I’m at this crusade—I’m crying, and I get radically saved—the power of God came on me. Then what happens?—I don’t get discipled—I run into the wall at Dodgers’ Stadium and dislocate my shoulder. I’m out the first half of that season; it was a real struggle, and it was a real battle for me.
Without discipleship—that was a good question—without discipleship, I went running. After I ran into the wall and dislocated my shoulder, I went back to drinking and womanizing; and I went running for another 15 years.
Ann: It’s interesting—as you guys talked—you obviously have now been discipled.
Ann: You know the Word; you have a solid foundation as you talk. You’ve matured spiritually. Talk to our listeners that haven’t experienced that: “What should they do? How do they get discipled?” Talk about how that happened for you guys.
Tracy: Discipleship is where the freedom is found; that’s how you experience the newness of who you have become, in an instant, over a lifetime. Get in a Bible-based teaching church; take notes of the sermon that the pastor is preaching—take those notes home, especially the Scripture references, and say, “Lord, speak to me,”—start there instead of the confusion of: “Where do I start in the Bible? What do I do in the Word?”
Some practical things were: I knew I had to get rid of my old people, places, and things, which is the power of influence—it will take you down every time; it’s a setup of the enemy—you cannot become new by bringing in the old. You just can’t do it. I had to position myself in uncomfortable places—such as meeting with Christian women—putting myself out there, going to church events, going to Christian events, going to places I was not comfortable with at first, and stepping out there and introducing myself, and allowing myself to be taught and mentored.
Ann: What do you mean by: “It was uncomfortable at first”?
Tracy: Because I was living in the world so strongly. I mean, I was going to the club; and I was confused by: “What do you mean you don’t sleep with somebody before you get married to them? How will you know them?”
Ann: Did you feel like an outsider?
Tracy: I felt like an outsider; I felt like they were too good for me. I felt like: “There is no way I can be as good as these Christian women”; or they would judge me; or “There is no way I could tell my story, because I am just so bad; and I’ve gone down so far. Does God even love women like me?” I had a lot of questions.
Tracy: But discipleship brought me the truth of those answers, and healed me, and restored me, and empowered me. Discipleship is the walk of faith that the Word of God is poured into you: it’s the avenue; it’s the gateway; it’s the way you experience the newness of who you are. Without doing that, you will never get to experience the richness of Christ that you receive the moment you came to salvation.
Dave: You know, one of the questions that is still in my mind, as I hear you talk about the growth process through discipleship, which is so critical—and honestly, as a pastor for 30 years—so many in our church never take that step.
Tracy: That’s horrible.
Dave: They really don’t get discipled, and it’s really on us—we have to decide to pursue that—God will bring the people.
Tracy: He will.
Dave: We’ve got to pursue it.
One of the things that I’ve just got to ask you is about forgiveness—because when you think about your background—and I had a dad, who walked out when I was six, and I struggled for three decades to forgive him, not even realizing, “I’ve got a journey I have to take.” You talk about it in your book. I was—man, when I read what you said—tell me if I’m wrong, but I’m going to read/you said—“God didn’t tell me to forgive my father. He told me to ask my father to forgive me.” When I read that, I’m like, “What?!”
Darryl: Yes, it was an incredible journey that God walked me through after saving me. I remember I was going to preach at a men’s prayer breakfast on a Saturday morning; and God spoke to me on a Friday night. That was in California; He said, “I want you to go down, and I want you to go see your father,”—he is in the hospital, because my brother had told me—He [God] said, “Go see him and ask your father for forgiveness. I want you to ask him to forgive you for keeping him out of your career, your life, the grandkids, and everything.” I was like, “Are you serious, Lord?!” [Laughter]
I called my wife; and I told her, “You need to pray for me. God is all over me this Friday. I can’t go to sleep, and I’ve got to do this men’s prayer breakfast. He wants me to go forgive my father.” She said, “Well, you need to do exactly what He said.” I did; I woke up that Sunday morning, and I went to the hospital.
I saw him; He said/I remember God saying, “Don’t say anything about what he did to you,”—we were just having a conversation, me and my brother there, having a conversation. I said, “You know the Lord has changed my life, and I’m a different person now.” I said, “Would you forgive me for keeping you out of my life and my career?” A tear came down his eye; and he shook his head and said, “Yes.” I just lost it! I laid in his lap, and I just lost it! I just laid there. I was weeping so hard and just saying, “I’m so sorry.” I just remember the Lord said, “Raise up.” He says, “Now, lead him in the sinner’s prayer.”
Darryl: There I was; I said, “Would you like to accept the Lord over your life?” He said, “Yes.” I just remember God saying, “How dare you not forgive him, and I forgave you!” See, we have to understand grace. You know, He gave me grace; why wouldn’t I give him grace? Then I just remember God saying to me, “The forgiveness was not for your father. The forgiveness was for [you].” He said, “You stayed broken all those years, because you wouldn’t forgive.”
I just cried; I cried driving home. I was just/but I just remember, through that whole process, how God/I told Tracy how God just released me after I did that to my father—you know, asked him to forgive me—He released me; He set me free. I was a totally different person. He took me to a whole other level. I thought I was just at this level—“Okay, God, I’m doing your work,”—God was like, “No, you were doing My will, but you still had some things that I needed to get out of you.”
Dave: Yes; yes.
Ann: So he passed, knowing Jesus.
Darryl: Yes, he passed six months later; yes, he passed like six months later. He goes on home to be with the Lord.
Ann: And what about your siblings?
Darryl: I ended up leading all of them to the Lord. [Laughter]
Ann: I’m thinking about your mom!
Tracy: Yes, the legacy.
Darryl: Yes, because she told me—my mom said, “Oh, you’re going to do it,”—she said, “You’re going to do it. God already spoke to me. You’re going to be the one to do it; everybody is going to come in line.”
I remember my sister, Regina, was dying; and at the age of 51, she had cancer. She was in a hospital in California. I was going to ministry somewhere; and God said, “Get to California.” He said, “I want you to get everybody out of the room, and I want you to go in there. I want you to lead her to Me.” It was the hardest thing I had to do; she was my favorite sister.
Darryl: Yes; it was the hardest thing I had to do. He said, “I want you to go lead her.” He goes, “She is going to die, but I want you to lead her to Me.” I go in there, and everybody is around. The first thing I said was, “Everybody has got to get out for a minute. I’ve got to talk to Regina.” I said, “Regina, you know the Lord has saved me.” I said [emotion in voice], “Are you ready?” She said, “Yes!” She said, “Go ahead and lead me.” It was the hardest thing I had to do, because me and her were like this [gesturing closeness]; you know?
Darryl: And there I was, leading her. And then Tracy takes her and says—Tracy flies in—she says, “I’m going to take her back home to St. Louis.” They said she couldn’t travel; Tracy said, “I’m taking her.” She goes on; she takes her. She takes care of her while I’m on the road, travelling, doing ministry. She passes away at our house in St. Louis. So, yes.
Ann: And Tracy, what about your boys?
Tracy: My boys are amazing. I am restored to all three of my boys; I have an incredible relationship with my kids. God has also, now, used me as the restoration agent to bring them to Him. [Emotion in voice] God is so good that He would put me in the position, from what I took from them, that He would use me as the one who would give it back to them but in a greater way.
Dave: It is amazing; isn’t it? It took me years to understand that He often uses our pain to point us to our purpose. The pain that you—and a lot of it was self-inflicted—
Dave: —and a lot of our pain is self-inflicted; even then, we make these horrible choices—God forgives; God restores; God empowers. He says: “That very valley you walked through/that darkness is going to be the thing I’m going to use—
Dave: —“for your future.”
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the quote, Darryl. When I was trying to forgive my dad, I was reading this forgiveness book by Lewis Smedes; he says, “When you forgive someone, you set a prisoner free, only to discover, you are the prisoner.”
Tracy: So true.
Dave: I remember, when I read that, I thought I locked my dad up—“You don’t deserve to be in my life,”—I’m like, “I locked myself up.” I couldn’t be free to be the man God called me to be.
I’m hearing your story, thinking, “Wow!” When you were set free—you said it wasn’t even about your dad; it was about you—when you were set free, look at what He did after that, and He is still doing.
Dave: You are free to be used by God in a powerful way. I can’t imagine what your future looks like. Seriously, I think it’s just the beginning—
Ann: Yes, you guys are amazing.
Dave: —of your impact in ministry in the world.
Tracy: Glory to God.
Ann: Thanks for being with us, you guys.
Darryl: Thanks for having us.
Tracy: Thanks for having us.
Bob: I have to think there may be somebody, who has been listening today, who thinks, “My situation—the mess I’ve made of my life—I’m beyond God’s ability to help/to pull me out of the ditch I’m in.” I think what we’ve heard from Darryl and Tracy Strawberry today is that nobody is beyond God’s mercy, God’s grace, God’s redemption. God doesn’t just save us so that we will be with Him forever. God saves us so that eternal life can begin for you right now. New life in Christ can begin for you right now. There is help, and there is hope.
Darryl talks about that in his book, Turn Your Season Around: How God Transforms Your Life. It’s a book we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order your copy from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the book is called Turn Your Season Around by Darryl Strawberry. Order online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, as we get down to the last few days of August, for the last few weeks, we’ve been asking you to prayerfully consider becoming a monthly supporter of FamilyLife, what we call a Legacy Partner. David Robbins, who is the president of FamilyLife, is here with me. David, help our listeners understand how vital and how important Legacy Partners are to the ongoing work of this ministry.
David: Well, first of all, I just want to say that I am so grateful to be able to meet many Legacy Partners as I travel and do different events. It is such a joy to meet people, who are faithful listeners as time allows and space allows in their life, and also partners to help get the message of the gospel, and the ways of Jesus that can thrive in a home and help families flourish, to get those to as many people as possible.
I am just so grateful for you, who are currently Legacy Partners, and give in an ongoing way. It’s that ongoing support that allows us to know what is coming in so that we can plan accordingly and get these great messages around marriage and family to as many people as possible. You really are an engine to help fuel our mission of effectively developing godly families who change the world one home at a time.
It is the last week of August, and we would invite you to become a Legacy Partner and be a part of the team that is taking this to homes that may not know the hope of Jesus.
Bob: And as many of our listeners know, what we’ve been hoping for/praying for this month is that, in every city where FamilyLife is heard, there might be two families who would step forward and say, “We want to be part of the team that makes FamilyLife Today possible in our community.”
If you would be one of those two—if you would contact us today and say, “I want to join you as a Legacy Partner,”—we’re going to send you some thank-you gifts: a certificate to attend a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway as our guests—you can pass that along to someone else if you’d like—we’ll send you Dave and Ann Wilson’s new book, No Perfect Parents; and exclusive access to messages from Dave and Ann. All of that is our way of saying, “Thank you for your partnership with us in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.” You can connect with us online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Thanks, in advance, for praying about this and considering joining with us as a Legacy Partner.
We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend, and I hope you can join us on Monday when we’re going to talk about betrayal, and about broken trust, and how we can rebuild a relationship when that has happened, and how we forgive a person who has betrayed us. Lysa TerKeurst joins us on Monday for that conversation. We hope you can join us as well.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend. We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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