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Baseball: Sabbatical Reflection #2

So, if you followed any of my social media while I was on sabbatical, you are very aware that I spent a lot of time at baseball fields. There was 12-year-old baseball, college baseball, minor league baseball and even a major league game thrown in there.

There are two quotes that come to mind when I am at a baseball game. The first is from Anne Lamott:

Little by little, in telling Sam all these details, I got to see the bigger point of baseball, that it can give us back ourselves. We’re a crowd animal, a highly gregarious, communicative species, but the culture and the age and all the fear that fills our days have put almost everyone into little boxes, each of us all alone. But baseball, if we love it, gives us back our place in the crowd. It restores us.

The other is not from a spiritual source per se. It’s from the movie, Bull Durham. In the movie the Bulls are playing crummy baseball. Crash Davis (wise, old for baseball catcher) tells Skip (team manager) the way to get the players’ attention is to scare them. They’re just kids. So, Skip throws a bunch of baseball bats into the shower and screams at everyone to get in there.

Skip: “You guys, you lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Larry?”
Larry: “Lollygaggers.”
Skip: “Lollygaggers! What’s our record, Larry?”
Larry: “Eight and 16.”
Skip: “Eight and 16. How’d we ever win eight?”
Larry: “It’s a miracle.”
Skip: “It’s a miracle. This is a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. You got it. Now we have got a 12-day road trip starting tomorrow. Bus leaves six in the morning.”

Lollygaggers. Sometimes I think this is an apt description of the church. I say this not just to my own community of faith but to the church universal. Often times we settle for things as usual, easy answers, and comfort over challenge. This is not to say that we lack kindness, goodness, love, or any of the other fruits of the spirit. More often than not we just don’t have our head in the game. When things go haywire and nothing seems to be working, we start behaving like those baseball players in the movie. We turn on each other, we look for cosmic offenses and shifts in the astral plane, we distract ourselves, we look ways to restore our mojo and try to breathe out of our eyelids. We do everything but refocus ourselves on the fundamentals of the game.

The church of 2019 cannot take things for granted. We cannot coast through the next decade and hope to come out with a winning record. In The Universal Christ, Richard Rohr advocates that as disciples we must stop substituting problem solving for the actual ministry of Jesus. He offers that when God created, God declared it to be good – very good. Too often we get caught up in all that went wrong after creation and forget to appreciate and look for what God is creating right now. We need to look for the good, what possibilities are being created by God right now. Once we catch a glimpse of that vision, ours is not to dissect it, defend it or manage it. Our job is to do the work – take our gifts and skills and energy and build the new with God.

Lollygaggers find all the problems and try to create work arounds. It’s hard and demoralizing to devote all our attention and resources to problems. It feels like you are on a losing team. Players play the game. In baseball you throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. In church you love God, and you love your neighbor as yourself. In church we play as a team by encouraging one another, sharing wisdom from our experience, listening and celebrating, challenging and calling out the best in each other as we all develop our skills and mature in love.

So, let’s get to it. My prayer is an echo of Anne Lamott’s – by understanding the bigger point, may we all be restored and feel the joy of playing, dreaming and creating with God.