Bottom of the 9th - Holy Spirit
by Keith Wahl
(This week's Bottom of the Ninth is the third in a series walking readers through basics of the Christian faith integrated in the game of baseball through Francis Chan's BASIC video series)
The first two episodes of the BASIC series taught us some valuable lessons. Those with a small view of God see no need to fear. We must have a larger view of God. People claim to be followers of Jesus, but they do not do act upon Christ's words. We must do what Jesus teaches. A larger view of God and doing what Jesus teaches opens the door for the Holy Spirit. As Chan says, the Holy Spirt was supposed to change everything. Jesus told His disciples that He was leaving, but Jesus was sending someone else. It would be to everyone's advantage if Jesus left (John 16:7). His words were true as the Holy Spirit accomplished amazing things in the life of the disciples and of those in the early church. Where is that power today and are we still trying to tap into it?
In athletics, we tend towards practical and pragmatic explanations of greatness. We gravitate towards Malcolm Gladwell's discussion of the "10,000-hour rule" and point to video of Tiger Woods swinging a golf club when he was six years old. We rarely, if ever, point to the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in the life of an athlete. We try to explain away the "super" and explain it with the "natural" thus eliminating the "supernatural."
Why do we do this? Does the supernatural cause us so much discomfort that we won't lean into that lack of understanding? Do we fear other people looking at us strangely if we were to give credit to the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit desires to lead us to something deeper - moments of excitement and being a part of something supernatural. The most powerful example of this on a baseball field is unity among believers. In the Valor Baseball program, we know that this is possible as we have experienced it year after year in "The Brotherhood." Young men throw themselves deep into relationship with each other during the season as they build a bond that lasts a lifetime.
In his book, Baseball as a Road to God, John Sexton explains this as a wave:
"The wave metaphor is crucial here. When a wave is at its most powerful, it is a solid foundation that can support as may rider as will fit upon it. It can even sweep up more as it runs along. But when the wave passes, nothing but its memory survives. Try to stand upon the still water and you'll find that the supporting foundation is gone. Those moments in sport are like that. When you are in the midst of them, riding the wave, they carry you along and give meaning to life."
Jumping on the wave as a "brotherhood" of believers offers the individual an opportunity to compete in peace. The great moments that happen on the field can be bigger than us because we're experiencing them together with others. When we seek to experience those high levels of joy together, playing the game becomes easier. We approach the "zone" and have those "out-of-body" experiences on the field. While sports psychologists have names and techniques for high-levels of performance, believers recognize this as the Holy Spirit working on the field through them in that moment.