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Baseball: lessons in faith

Baseball: lessons in faith

by Maria L. Evans

“Give me a fresh vision of your love, that I may find again what I fear I have lost.”–from the prayer “For one who fears losing hope,” Enriching Our Worship 2, p. 75.

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”–Rogers Hornsby

Almost every year, I get my heart broken by the longest continuing summer love affair I’ve ever had in my life–the major league baseball season, particularly as it relates to “my” lifelong team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Honestly, my first childhood understandings of what faith and devotion were about were not learned in church, but learned in the box scores of the sports section of the newspaper.

Oh, I’m not so pathetic as Rogers Hornsby in the off-season–as I was telling someone, I’ll placate myself in the off season with college basketball. “I love college basketball, but it’s not the daily love affair baseball is for me. Basketball is more episodic. Baseball takes commitment.”

I guess you could say college basketball is my annual infidelity, and college football only gets my full attention once the baseball season is over for the Cardinals–something I date when my usual date isn’t around . But even in my flirtations and side relationships I am always waiting for that magic day when pitchers and catchers report.

I think very unfaithful things in the off-season. Will I really be able to give myself over again to this to have my heart broken again? What if there’s another strike? Do owners know how badly what they do pulls my heart around?

Sometimes I feel shame for being a rather spoiled baseball fan. “My” team has been World Series champs eleven times. What about those poor hapless Cubs fans? (Ok, the Cubs deserve a Series. But I still don’t want them to beat my Cards in a wild card playoff to get there.) Lately, I’ve been trying to balance the sting of the Red Sox breaking the Curse of the Bambino on MY team in 2004 by sweeping the Cards, and now being beaten AGAIN in 2013, by remembering how desperately Boston fans have yearned for a series win, and people living and dying never seeing it happen. Yeah, I get that at one level. But it still hurts at a deep level, and the baseball season constantly forces me to understand that tension in other places in my life.

Sometimes I fret that maybe I’m not as passionate a fan as I claim. Although I check the scores online every day, and get text messages about the games when I’m away from my TV, there are days during the season I watch something else on TV instead, or start off watching the game, get disgusted with what’s happening, and start channel surfing. Maybe I don’t deserve to claim being a passionate fan because I don’t hang in there with every pitch, every out, every inning, all season long.

Yet I also dream. I dream of free agents that will help my team, I dream of pheoms coming up through the farm system.

Well.

Now take what I said and flip that around into churchspeak.

“Maybe I’m not a good Christian because I don’t go to church every Sunday.”

“I know I should feel compassion for those people over there, but it’s hard. There’s a part of me that gets it, but there’s a part of me that dislikes those people.”

“I like worshiping THIS WAY. Don’t people know that when they mess with worship, it messes with ME?”

“I haven’t been that holy. I’ve had affairs.”

We are given windows and windows and more windows to understand that faith and devotion is not a perfect process. It’s a fluid, day-to-day thing, that in small ways, changes all the time, and some days we are more into it than others. The bottom line is “Can we learn to trust in hope?” Trusting in hope means living with things when they don’t always go the way we think they ought to. It means accepting our own insecurities, flaws, and yes, the times we’ve strayed–to return anyway, scars and all. It’s about trying to continue to grow compassion when we feel hurt, by remembering that Resurrection doesn’t come without death and burial.

It means accepting that we are beloved fans of Jesus Christ, who don’t always figure out how to express our devotion, even when we are no more liked for it than someone is for wearing a Cardinals shirt in Wrigley Field. It’s learning to accept that people make mistakes, including the people in power, and we might feel at times we’re victims of a poor trade. It means committing to remain in love when love ain’t easy. It means falling in love with the dreams we share.

Where is a place outside of the church, that taught you lessons in faith?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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