Wednesday, June 23, 2010

God and Baseball

I love baseball. I love God. Not necessarily in that order.

As I was contemplating the inordinate amount of time I am spending watching baseball on TV and at the ball park while on sabbatical (it really isn't all that much; I'm not watching re-runs of the games, at least), I was struck by how much life is like baseball.

Bear with me.

I suppose anything can be an allegory for life if you're willing to stretch far enough. But baseball has some things about it that are remarkable in this regard. Like life, in baseball you have to navigate through various situations and scenarios in an attempt to "win" or at least not to "lose." Much of baseball, as life, is about performance. Do you make the standard plays? Do you make the really tough plays? Can you hit a home run? I feel a sermon coming on.

But seriously, consider baseball. There are the players, they represent you and me as we sojourn in life. Then there are the managers, those who teach us and coach us. Where is God? At first, we're likely to identify God with the umpires. But I don't think that is right. Or maybe, God is the scoreboard keeping track of our "performances." Nah! Maybe God is the vendors providing refreshment and nourishment? Also Nah! Is God the sportscasters, observing each play and offering expert commentary? I like Vin Scully, but he's not God!

So where is God?

I think God is the crowd of fans, cheering us on. But the allegory breaks down quickly, so don't jump too fast. Unlike the crowds, God is not partisan (Rom. 2:11). God is not cheering the Angels on over the Dodgers (no need, since the Angels pretty much beat up on the Dodgers! But I digress…). God cheers equally for both teams, for the love of the game. In fact, God cheers for each player, you and me. I know. That's sounds really trite. But think about it… Ok, it is trite, but I'm trying here.

God doesn't care who wins or loses in baseball, despite the religious genuflections and cross-kissing of many players. But God does care about these things:

  1. God cares that we play/live with integrity. Cheating is not quite one of the 10 Commandments, but it could be. And "Thou shalt not steal" does not refer to taking 2nd base while the pitcher/catcher is napping, so don't go there! I'm talking about integrity, the kind of person you are when the umpire isn't looking, or regardless of the instant replay rules. God cares that we are people of honesty and integrity.
  2. God cares that we have fun. I can remember being amazed at friends when I was a young Christian, when they would summarize their "theology" as "God wants me to be happy." Period. That's not what I'm saying here. I'm saying that God delights in, among other things, our fun, joy, gleefulness, etc. One of my favorite images comes from a vision that someone had (I can't remember who, nobody famous, though) of Jesus, splashing in the water, playing with others. The thing is, life is not just about having fun, but God created fun for us to enjoy.
  3. God cares that we treat one another with respect. I know, I know. Trite again! But no matter what "team" we play on, I don't think God is pleased when we treat members of other teams (or umpires, or fans, or anybody else) with anything less than respect and honor. That's why I am making a change in my life. I am going to TRY and stop being so belligerent about my partisan love for the Angels and the Padres (and, thus, against the Dodgers). I have ragged mercilessly on my Dodgers-fans-friends, and I'm sensing that God is not pleased with that part of me. It is not unlike partisan politics, another area in my life that I need to inject a sense of peace. So, my apologies to my Dodgeresque friends. They are really a good team (I love Joe Torre, and Vin Scully, and most of the players, just not the team… Go figure.) Pray for me.
  4. Finally, God cares that we do our best. Gosh, I sound like some Norman-Rockwell-Hallmark-schoolmarm! But seriously, folks (as I straighten my tie)! It's like Eric Liddell (Chariots of Fire) said: "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." I agree that God takes pleasure when we excel, which is the only legitimate use of competition. Because, ultimately, we are only in competition with ourselves to improve and excel, to the glory of our Maker.

So, there you have it! My blog entry for today. How am I doing?

Don't answer that.

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