Bill Buckner played professional baseball for 22 years. He hit for a career average of .289 with nearly 3,000 hits. He won the National League batting title in 1980. But how is he remembered? He missed a routine ground ball in the 1986 World Series. In one moment he went from “solid major-leaguer” to infamous scapegoat.
Who wants to be known for who they were in their worst moments? A snapshot in time, a moment of weakness, or a careless word can permanently change our view of someone.
Bill Buckner is hardly an isolated case.
When we think of the apostle Thomas, I rather suspect one word comes to most of our minds – doubt. However, the same Thomas wanted to know where Jesus was going after death and how to get there (see John 14:1-6). Thomas was not doubting Jesus; he wanted to understand Jesus. When Jesus proposed a dangerous return to Judaea in order to raise Lazarus, it was Thomas who said “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” Are these the words of a doubter?
It’s certainly fair to draw conclusions about others — and ourselves — when we see persistent, repeated behaviors. But is an out-of-character moment or a failure inconsistent with what we know about someone sufficient grounds for completely re-defining what we think about that person? Yes, Thomas doubted; he also wanted to know the truth and was willing to die alongside Jesus. I see in Thomas exactly what I would expect: a mixture of successes and failures. Or, to put it another way, I see a human being.