On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson became pro baseball's first black player when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He would face bigotry in ballparks all over the nation, but especially in the segregated South. Robinson’s courage and calm in the face of that hatred deserves to be remembered for years and years to come.
Hiring Robinson didn’t require the same degree of bravery, but it did call for some boldness on the part of Branch Rickey, the Dodger’s baseball executive who made the call. That’s what makes the following account from a recent CNN story so interesting:
Rickey's pastor was Wendell Fifield, from the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims in Brooklyn…While Rickey was trying to decide if he should sign Jackie Robinson, he paid a visit to Rev. Fifield. He barged into the pastor's study and told Fifield, "Don't let me interrupt. I just want to be here. Do you mind?"
According to an eyewitness report written by Fifield's wife June, the two men passed the time without words. The pastor continued his work and Rickey energetically paced the floor, stopping occasionally to look at the pastor's window. For forty-five minutes he continued pacing, pausing, pacing, and then pausing. Finally, Rickey broke the silence by pounding his fist on the pastor's desk as he shouted, "I've got it!"
"Got what, Branch?" the minister asked.
June Fifield said that Rickey finally relaxed on a chair and told his pastor, "This was so complex, fraught with so many pitfalls but filled with so much good, if it was right, that I just had to work it out in this room with you. I had to talk to God about it and be sure what he wanted me to do. I hope you don't mind."
"Wendell," he said, "I've decided to sign Jackie Robinson." Then Rickey straightened his bow tie, donned his hat, and left the room as he said, "Bless you, Wendell."
Not many of us will be called on to make a decision of such magnitude. But our lives are nonetheless filled with difficult challenges. How many of us think to stop and listen for God in the same way that Rickey did before making his big decision?
This Sunday we’re going to hear about what happens in the life of Elijah when, in the midst of his panic, he is able to stop and listen for God. I hope you can listen for God, too.