Spiritually Ambidextrous

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler
2016 24 Nov

a person stands in front of a waterfall with arms outstretched, there is a double rainbow in the mist

What do Roberto Alomar, Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, and Eddie Murray all have in common? If you’re a fan of Major League Baseball, you may know that each was a talented switch-hitter, able to slug a baseball either right-handed or left-handed, depending on which would prove most advantageous against a particular pitcher. While many switch-hitters have to train themselves to use their nondominant hand, some have an inborn talent for it. These players are, of course, ambidextrous.

In his book A Grace Revealed, Jerry Sittser mentions a desert father by the name of Abba Theodore, who used the word ambidextrous to apply to believers who had learned to take both prosperity and adversity in stride. Given the choice, I’m pretty sure I would always choose prosperity over hardship.

As Sittser puts it, prosperity “makes God seem good, the world seem right, and faith seem natural, as natural as writing with the dominant hand. Obviously,” he says, “adversity does the opposite, making life hard for us. Temptation overruns us, doubt plagues us, routine bores us.”1

Even if we could chart a course toward perpetual prosperity, it is doubtful such a course would produce the peace we long for. Why? Because prosperity has its pitfalls. It can make us fat and dull, turning us into people of mediocre faith.

To the early Christians, Abba Theodore offered this wise counsel:

“We shall then be ambidextrous, when neither abundance nor want affects us, and when the former does not entice us to the luxury of a dangerous carelessness, while the latter does not draw us to despair, and complaining; but when, giving thanks to God in either case alike, we gain one and the same advantage out of good and bad fortune.”2

In the end, becoming spiritually ambidextrous is primarily an exercise in trust. We trust not in our circumstances but in the goodness of a God who loves us even more than we love ourselves.

  1. Jerry Sittser, A Grace Revealed (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012).
  2. Ibid.