With baseball my spirit was always willing but my flesh was weak. One example: I never hit a home run in a game and came close only once. In 1976 I played in a University of Michigan graduate student co-ed softball league. Susan, who would shortly become my wife, batted ahead of me. She hit a ground ball and pulled a muscle leaving the batter's box. She displayed her tenacity—and the mediocrity of the league—by making it to first safely. (The third baseman fielded the ball cleanly but tried to compose the next few sentences of his dissertation before throwing it.)
I helped Susan limp to the sidelines and then went to bat, with a pinch runner taking her place at first. I surprisingly lined the ball over the head of the center fielder, ran the bases in my ponderous way, and while rounding third looked back and saw that the shortstop had caught the throw from the outfield and was prepared to relay the ball to the catcher. A good throw home would nab me so I stopped, pleased with my triple and thinking: No use risking an out, I'll hit a home run some other time.
That other time never came. I'll go to my grave homerless, hoping to play baseball in heaven. And that gets me to the issue of moments missed not by individuals but by nations. Russia had a window of opportunity two decades ago: Many American evangelicals went to help and were God's instruments in changing lives, but the nation as a whole ended up with Vladimir Putin. The United States has a crucial election next year, and 2012 will also bring a choice for Libya: change, or return to dictatorship.
The first Libyan signs are encouraging economically but not theologically. The New York Times reported that American and European business leaders "are abuzz about the business potential of a country with huge needs and the oil to pay for them, plus the competitive advantage of Libyan gratitude toward the United States and its NATO partners. … Western companies hope to have some advantage over, say, China, which was offering to sell arms to Colonel Qaddafi as recently as July."
Money may talk but it appears that Christians will be silenced. Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Committee and potentially Libya's new strongman, has proclaimed, "We are an Islamic country. We take the Islamic religion as the core of our new government. The constitution will be based on our Islamic religion." That means no liberty for Christians to evangelize. It may mean death for Libyan Muslims irresistibly called to Christ. And, sadly, this will all be occurring in the country that was a major Christian center during most of the six centuries following Christ's resurrection.