Read the Text of R.A. Dickey's Convocation Address
Wednesday May 15th, 2013
A written text of R.A. Dickey's Convocation address to the Wycliffe College Class of 2013 is below:
Thank you Wycliffe College, thank you graduates, for letting me celebrate this day with you. What a fantastic day.
I got to thank Principal Sumner in particular for his baseball metaphors, which made me feel right at home. I did learn that he’s a Boston Red Sox fan (boos from crowd). I’m sorry, I’ve outed ya. I’m also pleased to say I’m not sorry for disappointing you this weekend (cheers from crowd). I gotta say the way the Blue Jays have been playing early on this year, it’s nice to come to a place that abounds with grace (laughs).
In preparing for the few words that I was going to say today, I really wanted to speak from the heart, based on my own experience in ministry and my own experience as a human being. Because I think one of the things that you guys have done that are members of the graduating class, that whenever you came on campus you devoted your life to not only a life of growth spiritually, but also a life of service.
I stand before you not in any way a self-made man. I have been a product of a lot of people who have loved me and poured into me in a way that is transformed my life, not only as a small child, but as I’ve grown as an adult, and I would be remiss if I didn’t share . . . with you about that, in the hopes of leaving you with what I feel could be something that you could take and remember in an effort to make a difference in the lives of other people, which you inevitably will be called to do in some capacity.
So to that end, I got to a place where I was in my life about six years ago where I was at the end of myself. I have spent some time — I became a Christian when I was 13, but I didn’t have the follow-through that I needed — but nonetheless I found myself in the fall of 2006 at the steering wheel of a car with all the windows rolled up and a garden hose attached from the muffler to the passenger-side window in the hopes of ending it all. Why? Because I had done some things in my life and come to a place in my life where I had realized that I had made a lot of mistakes, and not only had I made a lot of mistakes, but I had been the victim of some things that are tough to wrap your arms around, a Christian or not. So I was in that place and I was about to turn the key and I really felt the Holy Spirit saying, “R.A., I’m not done with you yet. Don’t do that.” Like literally those words: “Do not do that.” And so as lonely as I felt in that moment at the steering wheel of a Chevrolet Cavalier, I never felt truly alone. I think there’s something to be said in that.
I share that with you and I’m vulnerable with you in this moment because I really believe that God has called me to be here for a reason. I do believe in divine appointments, I believe this is one of them. . . . From then on, as I walked out of that car, I had the encouragement of my pastor at home to seek help from Christian counsel, and some of you may end up in that place. And it was there that my life was changed forevermore, I think because I had to deal with a lot of stuff form my broken past, a very toxic past, a very dysfunctional past, and maybe some of you guys out there know what I’m talking about exactly, and if you don’t you will certainly come in contact with people that do.
I think one of the things we share, the common denominator whether you’re Canadian or American or African, it does not matter. We are all bound by adversity and tribulation, to some degree. Maybe it’s through the loss of a loved one; maybe it’s a broken relationship; maybe it’s something far deeper. But we’re all together in that. So a lot of my life from that point on — and what I hope to leave you guys with as you go out into the world and you start to have an impact in the lives of other people is this: I’ve started to develop disciplines and mechanisms to deal with what was very broken about the world, and what was also very beautiful about the world. How do I go about my life being able to hold both the tragedy of this earth and the joy of this earth? And it was from there that I really started to grow as a human being and as a pitcher; I started to be very transparent in my relationships after not trusting anyone for years and years and years — including my wife, which almost cost me my marriage. . . .
As I continue to walk forward in this life, whether it’s in the dugout at the Rogers Centre or it’s here with you, God has given me a responsibility of trying to invest in every moment, in conversation, in relationship with whomever, and to try to devote myself to the discipline of sucking the marrow out of every second that I can. I think that is what God helps us to do. In Mark, in particular, when he says to us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength; and the second commandment is this: to love thy neighbour as thyself.” Even Victor Hugo, one of the lines of his book Les Mise, I think, is “To love another person is to see the face of God.” I think there’s something that we can take out of that and apply it to our everyday lives. That’s what was done for me.
So I stand before you and have accepted the invitation to speak before you because I feel like that is something valuable to understand: that you will be the Christian counsellors in people’s lives, you will be the pastors in people’s lives, the friends, the mothers, the fathers, who will ultimately be able to communicate that truth and that is, in essence, the great commission of mine, to go and be disciples and part of that is in the fabric of our own families. . . .
Within the framework and the culture of baseball to live a Christian life is not always easy. . . . It’s a very dysfunctional lifestyle and a real challenge to try to live a life that you can glorify God in. I’m called to be a father to my children. Thank God for Skype and for iChat, which has enabled me to be a parent from a long distance. But we have to work hard at it. Within the culture of baseball I am a minority. Within the clubhouse we’re usually looking at, maybe, five or six believers. So it can be a real challenge.
I share that with you to speak about the importance of community. Community has made a big difference in my life at home. I’ve surrounded myself with people that I know I can trust, and I know will love me well, and when I say love me well that means telling the truth. So I also encourage you as you go forth today to invite people into your life that you know and trust to be able to pour into you. And it’s not always pretty, right? Growth is painful sometimes. I know it has been for me. But at the end I think the reward is that you develop a more intimate relationship with a living God.
And so if I could go back to opening day and I felt like it was kosher, I would have said, “Please tell the PA guy to announce me as: ‘R.A. Dickey, starting pitcher of the Toronto Blue Jays and the child of a living God.’” I think that would be pretty powerful to do that. That is what you are, that is what we all are as believers in this community. We’re all children of a living God and that’s a powerful thing and it’s something that’s live-saving, it’s life-transforming, it’s life-changing. . . . To be able to sit with another human being and their sorrow and their grief is an incredible thing to have the capacity to do that, and it takes practice and it takes prayer and it takes you involving other people to sit with you in your grief. Because ultimately, at the end of the day, that’s what transforms. And that’s what Christ did: he sat with people and their sorrow and he offered them a different life. And that’s what you guys are going to be doing. And that fires me, that fires me up.
Even in the culture of my clubhouse, because there are a lot of people that have broken pasts, like my own, maybe they’ve been sexually abused, maybe they come from a broken family, maybe they’ve had a drug addiction, maybe they’re presently grappling that I don’t know, but if I’m transparent and vulnerable I can sit with them and their grief, even if it’s the smallest amount, then I will gain the ability to do relationship with that person. And those are the gifts that I’ve been given in my journey.
We all have a personal narrative. That’s the one thing that makes this life so awesome: that we all have our own narrative. I have mine, you have yours, but at the end of the day we’re all connected in some way. . . . Making a difference in the lives of others is being able to extend a hand to another human being and offer them the hope you have in Christ Jesus. So with that I’d like to say may God bless you now and forevermore.