As I stand outside the church, contemplating what it might mean to enter, I am back in my youth standing in the on-deck circle with my baseball bat swinging at imaginary pitches… preparing to step to the plate for my first at bat. The rules and the goals between our Christian walk and baseball are not so dissimilar.
“In my Father’s house, there are many mansions...“. Home, we dream of having a home...of being home...an ultimate eternal home. In baseball, we win by scoring the most runs, crossing the plate more often...home plate...home! Our goal is to make it home. But there are many obstacles - a narrow base path, a single direction around the bases, one way to home. Opposing pitchers trying to stop us, players trying to throw us out, umpires exacting justice, teammates and coaches there to help us. Fans rooting for and against us!! Such is life!!
As I stroll to the plate for my first at bat, I nervously garden the dirt in the batters box - covering the footprints of those who have battled before me. Looking to my third base coach for signs and guidance (is this Jesus?), can I execute what I’m being asked to do?
The enemy stares me down from the pitcher’s mound reaching into his bag of tricks to try and fool me, keep me off balance...fastball, curve, slider, spitball? After all my practice swings in the on deck circle, I find myself frozen, not able to get the bat off my shoulders. Would I strike out looking? Encouragement from my third base deity “wait for your pitch, attack the ball!!” My inner voice badgering me...“don’t strike out looking, at least go down swinging, just get a piece of the ball...”
In the place where practice, concentration, rehearsal, luck, and divine intervention meet... I hit the ball squarely with a line drive headed towards right centerfield. Galloping towards first base, I wonder if I might be able to turn this into a double... thankfully my first base coach, the Pastor, recognizes the strength of the outfield arm versus my lack of speed - he holds me up at first. The real journey now begins.
Don’t glory in the success of your hit by getting picked off first! Be aware of your surroundings, be prepared to sacrifice yourself by breaking up a double play, or going hard to second as your teammate sacrifice bunts you over!! First base Pastor advising, encouraging...
The next batter up quickly strikes out looking on three pitches! He walks right on by the front of the church with a mild curiosity... distracted by the fans in attendance and the smell of hotdogs...fearful to enter.
Leading off first base at a safe distance, the following batter hits a bloop fly into shallow right field, Will it drop? Between first and third I have no coach and I must use my own judgment - can I make it past 2nd to 3rd base?! I decide to go for it and after rounding second “fix my eyes” on the third base coach… Will he wave me home? Will he raise his hands straight up signaling me to stop at third standing up? Will he throw himself to the ground arms down imploring me to slide?
Omg, he windmills his arms around like a high-speed fan on a hot day...I run full gas never hesitating, running desperately towards home. Towards the pearly gates I lumber - I can see the catcher in full armor guarding home plate, attempting to block it and looking to the approaching ball to receive and tag me out. The on deck batter at the plate motioning to the ground “slide, slide!!!” I dive headfirst ...arms reaching, fingers extended, dirt in my face - SAFE!! The signal from Jehovah in blue!!
Fans and angels singing and cheering, demons and rulers of darkness booing...teammates celebrating, and the coach whispering “well done...“! Jogging back towards the dugout I pass the next batter up, nervously approaching his first at bat… as he is warmly greeted by the head usher!!