Pat Venditte is one-of-a-kind in major league baseball. He can throw a fastball at 85 miles per hour with either hand and with equal skill and accuracy. His ability to switch arms while pitching to the same batter has produced comedic scenes over the years as ambidextrous batters switched up their own batting arm once they saw what pitch was coming. In turn, Venditte would switch yet again. It didn’t take long for the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation to issue a new regulation – the Pat Venditte Rule – requiring pitchers to declare to the ump with what hand they intend to pitch, and prohibiting a change of that hand until a batter is retired.
Leonardo da Vinci was equally adept at painting with his right and left hand. Quite remarkably, he wrote many of his personal notes in “mirror writing” – a capacity to write letters backwards and in reverse order. Albert Einstein was famous for his skillful use of both hands. So, today, is basketball great Lebron James. Ambidextrous people tend to have symmetrical brains, which I’m fast learning to envy. My lop-sided brain causes me to favor left-brain dominance, a trait common to most right-handed people. Had I been born with a more symmetric brain, I might be a church organist or at least someone who could manage to dribble a basketball with either hand.
Back in the fourth century, an ascetic monk named Theodore lived in the Egyptian desert. Ambidextrous was his word for describing disciples of Jesus Christ whose positive or negative circumstances didn’t seem to phase their faithfulness. Instead of applying the word to an athlete or artist, Theodore understood ambidextrous in spiritual terms. Those who neither let abundance in their lives draw them into careless complacency, nor scarcity in their lives drag them into a state of discouragement or despair were, to his mind, ambidextrous.
In one of my favorite biblical passages, the apostle Paul writes of being content and finding joy in the Lord whether he was full of plenty or deeply in want. “I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need” (Phil 4:12). This trait of Paul’s is one that transcends circumstances. It gets beyond them. It doesn’t allow personal circumstances to define one’s life. It views them as anything but an obstacle to faithfulness.
I wonder if an MRI would have shown Paul to have a symmetric brain. It doesn’t really matter, I suppose, since he appears to have had a centered and focused heart . . . which is all I really want, when I stop to think about it.