I cannot tell you why. I believe, however, truth is more important than why. Let me explain.
This morning…and perhaps it’s because I have suffered for most of my decades, I think of the Chicago Cubs. It’s Spring Training. A time to get ready for the season. And of all things, the Cubs—not one other Major League Baseball Team [yes, the caps are not incidental or unintended]—are 4 to 1 favorites to win it all. I believe I’ve died emotionally more from their losses than been jubilant at their victories.
Is there something wrong here?
Let me share more about baseball. I remember the first game I pitched for the Junior Varsity of Jefferson High School. I was a freshman so Junior Varsity was as good as it could get. I remember it was against Cleveland High School…that memory was embellished in a paragraph or two later. I remember the park, on 33rd street just north of Fremont. However, I don’t remember its name. I remember, though, after the game the scorekeeper showed me the recorded game and pointed to the number of hits by Cleveland. I had no idea. The number was zero. No idea in the world.
Then. Two weeks later, because, you see, in Portland you don’t tan you rust, deluging rain cancelled four baseball games for the Varsity. Coach Harry Richards called me to his office. He wasn’t the Vice-Principal so I knew I wasn’t in trouble. He told me to suit up for the Varsity. I wish I could describe the gulp.
That went pretty well…survived five innings of relief pitching. Yes, we lost, but that didn’t register. Although one of the other players hit a ball so high and so far I wouldn’t deny that it still may be in orbit. Or in another zip code.
Baseball became part of my breathing. Lots of seminars with my father in our driveway…how to swing the bat, how to not pitch against my body…for, you see, there’s lots to learn about the importance of a good pitching style. I even remember one summer night my sophomore high school year. After the first inning Coach Andrew Pienovi [God rest his soul.] said, “I’ve never seen more zip on your fast ball.” I didn’t realize that but I believed him. And, of all things. In the game—all games were seven innings—there were 14 K’s [baseball lingo for strike-outs].
Then, baseball started to lose its appeal because I began to lose my effectiveness. Less than two weeks after the 14 K game everything fell apart. Took a 3-hour nap one afternoon to be ready to pitch in a summer league game against Lincoln High School. I didn’t last past the first inning…five runs crossed the plate…by them…and I was yanked. Nothing but hits and walks and…K had left my arm.
What does all this mean? Okay, probably incidental and irrelevant to many. Not irrelevant to me.
This is the truth…I learned more from my losses than my gains. I became better. And more appreciative. And was able to extend what I had done before. Even if by a pitch or two.
All that was triggered because I realize for many of you, life is not a yawn. The times are too often when a yawning time would be most preferred. For many of you the metaphorical reality of Good Friday may not mean physical death. But it means emotional shredding, it means the new day has a vibrancy by-pass.
To all that Tom Ehrich raised his hand this morning for me. In his morning reflection it was about mourning realities. It is about suffering. It is about not realizing life as we’d hope. Truth? It’s about reality. It is about not making it past the first inning. It means not….
Do more than read this, please. See this. Understand this. And my prayer: find in these words some goodness and value in your own life and through your own living. That’s my hope. That no defeat wins and at your deepest level Good Friday times don’t have a chance. Okay?
“We all suffer. Life is filled with pain. Life has goodness, too, but it is from our pain that we produce crops worth sharing. That is the secret of 12-step recovery. That is the secret of any good preaching and any productive ministry. That is the heart of good parenting and life-transforming friendships. When ‘found’ follows ‘lost,’ we have a meal to share.
Too many people believe that success is all that matters. They cannot bear failure; they feel betrayed by hard times. When they present themselves to the world, they want to present an unblemished resume. They want to be admired for their greatness. The truly admirable, however, are those who have walked the desert road and, by the grace of God, kept moving forward. They have food to share.”