This year March 31st heralded the real first day of spring. Opening Day of Baseball. Peanuts. Cracker Jacks. Hot Dogs. The crack of the bat. The roar of the crowd. “Life is like baseball” analogies.
Baseball is back.
I love a good baseball game because anything can happen. You might think you know how things will turn out, but impossible runs are scored, players are tagged out, heroes are made. Games are won. And sometimes lost. Just like life.
The San Francisco Giants’ opening game against Arizona last week was no exception. I tuned into the game with great anticipation, anxious to get a glimpse of my favorite players and size up the new guys. Will they get their third trip to the World Series in five years? I hope so.
Early in the still scoreless game, the Diamondback’s pitcher hurtled the ball across home plate. But instead of landing safely in the glove of the catcher as he intended, Brandon Crawford swung at the ball and we heard the crack of the bat. My 10-year-old son and I cheered from our couch as Crawford sprinted to second base. He was in scoring position. Up next, Angel Pagan connected with the ball and dropped it into the outfield. Crawford scored the first run of the game.
Now that is the way to start a season! Hope for a winning season began to bud in my heart like the plants in my garden waking from winter’s dormancy.
Responsible parenting drew me away from the game for a bit. School night. Bedtime.
In between teeth brushing and other routines I snuck back to check the progress of the game.
With dismay I saw that in my brief absence the Giants were down by four runs. What?! How did that happen? Things were going so well. Why?
My hope faltered. Fear seized my heart. Win or lose, I love my team. But sometimes the ups and downs of the games get to be too much for me. I prefer a decisive win. No bumpy roads.
It was time to read with my son, so I shut off the game. After praying with my son I opted not to return to the game and potential heartbreak.
Big mistake. Because after a few more disappointing innings, the Giants did what they often do…and rallied. Great plays were made. Runs were scored. After being down by four, the game was tied going into the 9th inning. With two outs, Buster Posey hit a two run homerun. The crowd went wild as the cheers of the Giants’ fans drowned out the groans from the home team’s fans.
I read about the game the next morning and regretted not braving the tumultuous game.
That game would have had a decidedly different outcome if the players had the same attitude and approach I did.
Sometimes life gets really hard and defeat seems certain. Fear and anxiety ignite the fight or flight response. Personally, flight is my default.
“We’re so far behind…I can’t watch.”
But the Giants don’t put their head in the sand when the game isn’t going their way. They fight. They keep showing up. They keep playing. And they make impossible plays. They score incredible runs. They win games because they don’t give up.
When things look impossible and obstacles are numerous, when the score is lopsided, God asks us to keep showing up because the game isn’t over yet. Our emotions don’t have to dictate the outcome of our battles.
You may recall the story of David and Goliath. When David first encountered the Philistines and their huge soldier (I am purposely not calling him a “giant” because in this blog the Giants are the good guys), Goliath was taunting the Israeli army. He challenged them to send one man to fight to the death.
But the Israeli soldiers were afraid. Goliath was too big, too strong. The odds were stacked against them. They stayed back, wringing their hands, moaning about their bad luck.
There were two outs in the last inning and no one wanted to be the pinch hitter.
But David, who wasn’t a soldier, volunteered. He swung his sling, projected the rock into Goliath’s head and killed him. Homerun. End of game.
David didn’t let difficult circumstances and impossible odds change him. He knew that God was with him when he stepped up to the plate.
In the same way, God promises to be with us through all the hard things life throws at us. Psalm 91 reminds us of this.
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:1-4
When defeat looks certain and the game isn’t going according to our plan, God asks us to keep showing up. Keep swinging the bat. Don’t give up. There are nine innings in a baseball game. And even if the game doesn’t turn out the way we hoped it would, there are 162 games in the season.