Humanity is a marvelous thing – when we’re being humane. Unfortunately, as humans, we don’t always meet that mark. And as much as we celebrate the goodness that can come from our humanity, we aren’t often as quick to celebrate its synonym, mortality. Mortality has the tendency to remind us of the weakness of our humanness. Strangely and beatifically, the human spirit still has the ability to cause our souls to shine during mortality’s dark hours.
Yesterday didn’t seem like a dark day. On the contrary. Despite the cloud cover and the chilly breeze that had caused me to choose blue jeans and a jacket over shorts for my spectator apparel, it had begun with every reason for a celebratory mood. My son’s baseball team had battled back the day before (after playing their hearts out all week; all season, in fact) to earn their very first chance to play for their State title. I had what I considered to be the perfect seat – a chair-back centered at the beginning of the second level behind home plate (chosen for its spacious leg room as much as my views – one for the panoramic field, the other for seeing peripherally into our dug-out, and the last for directly observing & greeting joyful passers-by from both sides).
My focal field of view on this fantastic field of dreams
As the game progressed, the stats showed the story – still fairly manageable. We were down by 2 runs, but it came down to us not being as successful at getting our hits synchronized – we had simply stranded more runners. They had 6 hits; we had 5. No official errors were recorded for either team (though, in truth, there were some early adjustments that needed to be made for this larger field that could’ve been considered ‘unrecorded’ ones). We were home team, and unfortunately, by the time we had only 2 at-bats remaining, we were down by 4 runs with a costly error recorded. We continued to hit for the next 2 innings, and continued to strand runners. I won’t leave you in suspense. 4-0 was the final score, leaving us as runners-up in the State. For a first-ever run at State (a first Division title, a first Region title), I wasn’t at all disappointed. But I knew there were 18 players and a few coaches who were feeling a little differently about matters at the moment. I also knew that, one day, while cheering on their own kids, they would understand how very little importance this outcome would actually hold.
When we left the field that day, my son’s smile wasn’t as bright as it had been the night before. (Maybe it was even a little non-existent at the moment.)
All Smiles – my son (left) and his best bud teammate (fab freshmen at State)
But here’s the story I was able to share with him and I want to share today with you.
I began by asking my son what he thought about the other team’s pitcher, to which he replied he thought this was the best pitcher they’d faced at State. I nodded and said, “I’d like to tell you a little something I learned about him today.” (I’ve also learned to wait for his permission before we discuss anything after games. You’ll have to read the quick back-story on my post, Your Child’s Confession, if you’d like to understand why.) After getting his nod of approval, this is what I shared:
“As the bottom of the 6th was starting today, I could see the concern on the faces in your dugout, since time to get your runs back was becoming limited. I thought back to comments I’d heard from some of the moms the night before – about doing prayer walks and even cheering with ‘Holy Spirit fingers.’ I couldn’t help but grin over their enthusiasm and it caused me to have my own private little conversation with God. My words weren’t about winning, though. They went more like this: ‘Lord, I don’t even know if you care about ballgames…but I do know that you care about your children. And you know things going on in personal lives out there on that field – on both sides – that I couldn’t possibly know. I ask, more than anything, that each of these boys feels your presence in their lives and feels your peace out there on that field – so they can enjoy the time they’ve been blessed to be here – blessed by the support of all these family and friends surrounding them and cheering them on.’ And, honestly, I prayed it for every young man out on that field. I figured if God doesn’t show favoritism, I shouldn’t either. (Okay, as my son, you’re still my favorite player!) After that, I didn’t expect to hear anymore about it. What would be, would be.
“After your game was over, after the fans had stood and cheered you all on and given you more of their support and their love, I was standing on the walkway waiting for you to come out. As a fan from the other team passed, I smiled at her and offered my congratulations. She stopped and walked close to me and threw her arm around my waist. She looked directly in my eyes and said, ‘I know you’re disappointed about the loss today, but I’d like to tell you something. That pitcher you came up against today is my grandson.’
‘He did a great job,’ I nodded.
‘Oh, honey, that’s not why I’m telling you this. I wanted to let you know that he was diagnosed with invasive cancer in March and has had to undergo chemotherapy. He had to be cleared to be able to play here at State.’
I’m sure my mouth dropped open. Of course, by the time I’d told her how sorry I was to hear this news and had gotten his name and assured her I’d be praying for him, I hugged her and thanked her for entrusting me with this information.
‘I just thought that might help your boys understand…’ She smiled the brightest, most beautiful smile in that moment of darkness, as though the sunshine had burst through the clouds. Then she told me he was supposed to be playing ball for the college in our town next year – and she wanted me to come and see him there. And I believe that I will. I believe he’ll be there.
I found a way to pass this news to our coach through our athletic director; but I don’t believe the boys, as a team, had this information as they walked out of the stadium that afternoon. I felt blessed to be able to personally relay this testimony to my own son. As I shared this other young man’s story with him, about how the opposing player on the mound was undergoing a different sort of battle, not only did my son’s countenance immediately change as he expressed feeling differently about the game’s outcome (especially its importance in the grand scheme of life), he caught on to my little secret.
“God answered your prayer.”
“He did, didn’t He?”
“He let you in on what was going on in somebody’s personal life that did make this game important to Him.”
I just love it when we’re paying close enough attention for God to give us a glimpse of Himself and His heart. Don’t you?
What a precious moment – when we stop to realize those specific times when God has dipped, yet again, into our humanity.
An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
Martin Luther King, Jr.