It’s Halloween. The Cardinals won the World Series a few days ago. And today is my brother’s birthday.
These things are all related. Of course Halloween and my brother’s birthday were always related, at least back as far as I can remember. And baseball, at least the Cards, was my brother’s team. It was our team.
Yes, was. About a decade ago my brother stopped showing up to his birthdays. I miss him. His kids miss him. His parents miss him.
But, I don’t feel like writing a sad post today. Not really. Okay, it’s kind of sad, but I’d rather focus on baseball. I miss my brother, of course, but this week I realize I also miss baseball, and it got me thinking about things.
When my family moved to St. Louis many years ago, the team was doing well. While we lived there, the Cards made it to the World Series twice. The president of Rawlings Sporting Goods attended our church, so once we got amazing seats not too far up along the first base line. Besides watching the game, we could watch the antics of a city celebrity, one of the Busch sons of Busch beer. My brother and I watched a lot of games on TV, too. We knew the players, and we followed the teams, and it was fun. Being in a city with a winning baseball team can be a whole lot of fun.
Then I grew up and got married to a guy who couldn’t care less about baseball. We lived in cities without Major League teams. And I discovered baseball is no fun at all without fans to share it with.
I don’t follow baseball any more. Not at all. I didn’t realize the Cards were in the series last week until game four. I flipped past the final game on TV and paused just a moment, and I was tempted to stay and watch it, but I no longer know the players, and I would have watched it alone. It felt ridiculous. When I found out they’d won, I was happy about it, but I was also jealous, thinking how much fun it must have been last week to live in St. Louis surrounded by baseball fans.
Yes, I can connect this to other things in my life. Spiritual things. I’m reminded how important it is to live in Christian community. The sinful things of the world aren’t as much fun when the people in my life don’t share them. I realize the people in my life create a hedge of accountability around me without ever having to say a word to me personally. Their simple conversations and habits shape mine, and I suspect mine help shape theirs, too. It’s the reason different churches have different personalities, and that’s okay, as long as serving God is the basis of each personality.
I hope I can get as excited about God through my Christian family as I did about the St. Louis Cards while living in St. Louis. I need to spend that kind of time not learning about players and stats but learning about the character of God, sharing stories from experience and insights from the Word with those in my life who are fans of the Gospel, not fans of some sports team.
I think the Christian walk has one other similarity to life as a sports fan. Sometimes I focus on myself and not on Christ, and I find myself thinking my own personal world is the most important thing in reality. But watch a sports fan, standing at the sidelines cheering on a team. He feels he’s part of the win, part of the struggle, part of the game, even though he really hasn’t done a thing except cheer (and maybe paint his face or wear a silly hat.) Now, we do have real roles in the kingdom, but at the same time, we are part of something bigger than us, something that doesn’t really depend on us. It just helps to remind me that I’m not central, and the win or loss isn’t mine; it’s His. I can focus on God, cheering and getting excited about the Kingdom even when my little part of the kingdom isn’t doing as well as I’d like. The game is bigger than I am.
I miss baseball. I miss baseball with my brother most of all. But there are habits I can take from my days as a fan and apply to things that matter, infusing my Christian walk with some of that enthusiasm, getting excited with my Christian team about the struggles ahead of us. The team members shift, and the games change sometimes, but there will be a day in Heaven when we’ll have a celebration over a final win that makes the St. Louis parties last week look like nothing at all. Can’t wait for that one.