Two things have taken up most of my time lately: spending time with my 19-month-old daughter, and watching playoff baseball.
One thing we’re trying to teach my daughter these days is how to share, take turns, and in general to not get her way without her freaking out completely. It’s actually quite fun, because her main tantrum-position is butt-in-air, head-on-ground in some sort of weird downward dog tribute. Pretty friggin’ cute.
But she can get herself pretty worked up. Today, we took turns blowing bubbles. A little whining when I first made her share, but overall it went well. Soon, however, it was time for “no more”. She flipped.
As she screamed and did her yoga, my wife and I exchanged a smile. I picked her up, her mouth wide and face red, and brought her in the house, where she saw the box of Teddy Grahams on the table.
Fast forward a few hours. I’m watching Jon Lester pitch in and out of several jams on the mound for the Red Sox, and I wonder what that pressure feels like. Standing on a mound in front of 45,000 people who hate you, knowing that the fate of your team rests mostly on your left arm, and being completely aware that you are getting dangerously close to failing. Makes teaching English seem like a breeze.
Anyone who is a baseball fan knows that whether you throw a two-seamer or a four-seamer, a curve or a slider, side-arm or over the top, there’s one thing all good pitchers have to have to succeed.
A short memory.
Jon Lester can’t freak out when he walks a guy. He can’t overreact to giving up a double. He can’t even really get too upset if he leaves one up in the zone and it gets taken for a ride. He can’t get too worked up, because there’s another guy up to the plate. There’s work left to be done. And if he doesn’t move past his last mistake, more damage will be done, and the game might be lost for good.
In this can be seen what my spiritual director keeps reminding me is one of the keys to my personal holiness. I must be able to move past disappointments easily and rebound from failures quickly. I must be like a child who cries to his Father when things are not how I like, but I must always be looking for the good I know He will soon carry me to. I must look at the world with eyes of faith and hope.
And while maintaining this childhood innocence and trust, I must also do my jobs as husband/father/teacher/friend with little regard for how often I fail. What good comes from wallowing in the filth of our sin? Guilt is meant to inspire us to act differently in the future, but it is acidic to the soul if we stew in it for long. The pitcher who hangs his head and mopes about how much that last pitch sucked does his team no good. I have to move on as quickly as possible, because the results could be catastrophic if I don’t. The game itself could be lost. The stakes are too high.
So I must, we all must, be like little Toddler Pitchers, with innocent hearts searching for the good and focused minds worried only about the task at hand, aware of the risk we run if we fail completely, but trusting the care of our Father who will pick us up out of our mess if we ask Him to.
We’re in this. He’s not going to call in some lefty-specialist to get us out of a pickle. He’s like the manager walking to the mound, asking if we’ve got anything left, trusting us to get the team a little closer to victory if we say we can.
And if we tell Him we can’t, He smiles and takes the ball from us. This is what He loves to do! He loves to save us! He literally lived here just to get us out of our messes!
He does what we cannot. He needs no bullpen; if we hand the ball to Him, He turns and fires; His curve is straight nasty. He can get us out of any jam we are in, but He won’t do it unless we let Him.
If the image of a two-year old pitching from the stretch is too much for you, perhaps Jesus’ image works better for you: “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” (Matthew 10:16). Much is at stake, but all we really have to do is trust like children in the Father’s love for us if we want to accomplish our goal and rest in the arms of Divine Charity.
Completely unrelated prediction: Cards beat Red Sox in the World Series in six.