My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When Rickey asked Jackie if he was up to the job, he wasn't talking only about playing great baseball. He knew Jackie could do that. What he meant, he explained, was that if Jackie were to become major-league baseball's first black player, he would be in for a tremendous amount of abuse, both verbal and physical.Eric Metaxas wrote this book to ask two questions: (1) What is a man? (2)What makes a man great? He answers them by looking at the lives of seven men who are worthy of emulation.
Jackie said he was sure he could face up to whatever came his way. He wasn't afraid of anyone and had been in any number of fistfights over the years when anyone had challenged him.
But Rickey had something else in mind. "I know you're a good ballplayer," Rickey said. "What I don't know is whether you have the guts." Rickey knew he meant something dramatically different from what Robinson was thinking, so he continued. "I'm looking," Rickey said, "for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back."
This was an unexpected wrinkle, to put it mildly.
Jackie knew that resisting the urge to fight back really would require a superhuman effort, but he was deeply moved by Rickey's vision. He thought of his mother. He thought of all the black people who deserved someone to break this ground for them, even if it was difficult. He believed God had chosen him for this noble purpose. He believed he had to do it--for black kids, for his mother, for his wife, for himself.
Metaxas initially caught my interest by pointing out that today manhood is often denigrated in popular culture because of a lack of positive role models. These days the news is more likely to have stories about men using their gifts in negative ways than in heroic behavior. For example, a man misuses his strength by being bullying or domineering which is the opposite of what it should be used for, to protect those who are weaker.
He then tells the stories of seven men who lived their lives in ways we can admire. These biographies are short but pack in a lot of information. They cover a diverse group including Jackie Robinson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Chuck Colson. Even when I thought I knew everything pertinent about someone like George Washington or Eric Liddell, Metaxas was able to show a whole new side to them.
Each story turns on the fact that they surrendered themselves to God and sacrificed themselves in some way for the greater good. Metaxas isn't heavy handed but he doesn't shy away from occasionally raising points that encourage the reader to look deeper within his (or her) own heart.
I came away inspired and with several new heroes. It's early in the year but I already have a book to put on my "2016 Best" list.