Why Jesus and God follow baseball

Baseball is America’s favorite pastime . . . and God’s!  Not really, but maybe.  Who really knows?

It’s a game of anticipation, strategy and skill.  It’s a game that can’t be won by one player, but a lot can be decided because of one pitch, one play or one home run.  It’s a game of inches as well as chance.  And it captures the hearts of so many–including Jesus and God!

Jesus undoubtedly loves baseball because he’s the“Natural.”  He’s someone with a sense of anticipation, hopefulness and strategy.  He continually demonstrates the skill sets required for both offense and defense.  He has solid eye-hand coordination as well as a coachable spirit.  He trusts his teammates and cheers them on when they boot a routine play.  He’s a leader, quick thinker and mentally strong player.  He knows the rulebook through and through.  He even knows when to burst on the scene with raw quickness and sheer hope.  He’s patient, skilled and has a knack for shutting down (and creating) momentum.  All of these are good, intangible traits for a ball player.

And I think God follows baseball too, but for other reasons.

I once heard Tom Long tell a story of being at a Braves game.  He said he went with a buddy who didn’t appreciate the finer, albeit slower, moments of the game.  His buddy couldn’t see the “1st and 3rd with 1 out” situations or when the outfielders moved into no-doubles.  He failed to focus on the catcher stepping out from home to give the short-stop a sign for double-play depth.  He thought the game to be too boring and missed the 1st and 3rd basemen shading the line to prevent a base-clearing double to the corner.  He overlooked the catcher and pitcher intentionally keeping the ball low and away forcing the batter to hit a ground ball instead of a sac-fly.  He couldn’t see the connectivity, the trust and the skill set required to manufacture a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

He didn’t have the eyes to see it.

But for those who do, baseball offers a chance to gaze upon the unpredictable horizon with hope.  Hope that the ball will bounce your way or miss their bats.  Hope that whatever unfolds . . . chance, skill and even inches will find symmetry (even if it’s just for a moment) and the impossible will flash like a stroke of brilliance.  Hope that after hundreds of at-bats and thousands of pitches, your team will inch their way into the starry playoffs of October.  Hope that when it comes down to one pitch, one play and one out, your instincts guess right, your muscle memory doesn’t fail and your team wins the game.

I think God tunes in for these reasons.  They illustrate (almost perfectly) our connectivity to God’s kingdom, for even it is built for those who have eyes to see it.

God wants us to choose to see the finer, albeit slower, moments of life and to notice the unpredictable horizon of hope.  God wants us to anticipate how the spirit bounces and to learn how others swing and miss it.  God wants us to take chances, to use our skill set and to pray that we find symmetry (even if it’s just for a moment) in order to help author moments for others to see the impossible flash like a stroke of brilliance.  God wants us to carry this hope, so that after hundreds of days and thousands of prayers, our church will inch her way closer to grace . . . closer to God.

For when we buy in to this hope, we see how beautiful, how true and how good it is for people to unite their time, their effort and their energy around a shared spirituality that prepares them for all nine innings of life.  We also realize that no one person can do it alone; it takes a team (a church) moving with a shared vision and dream.

God sees all of this in the game of baseball.  That’s why God sent us the “Natural.”  Maybe it’s time we pay more attention to the game, and I’m not talking about baseball.

Barrett Owen

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About the Author
Barrett Owen is the associate director of admissions at Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology and pastor of National Heights Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga. He blogs weekly at Liminality: Exploring the holy, in-between spaces.

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