Bottom of the 9th #79 - Supernatural vs. Superstition


Bottom of the 9th - Supernatural vs. Superstition

Supernatural vs. Superstition

by Meredith Weide

As October draws to a close, I can hear the collective rustle of leaves in the now abandoned ballparks of the major leagues. For true fans of the game (not of a certain team, mind you), October does not disappoint. Entering the culmination of a season puts a spotlight on everything that brings us to this moment. What is the difference between the teams that play in October and the ones that call it a season in September? The list is predictable: talent, perseverance, sweat, a bullpen full of strong arms ... There are the intangibles as well: routines that cannot be altered, facial hair, caps worn backwards, and, dare I say–luck. This is a devotional after all, and using words like “luck†are practically considered blasphemy! Insert the word “blessing†if you must, but in the greater scheme of things, what is the difference? What is the difference  between superstition and supernatural? Let’s face it, baseball players and fans are an illusory lot.Even at our Christian high school, I have witnessed players and parents sitting in their lucky spot, wearing a magical garment, eating the food that has always extended a hit streak (I sell a lot of hot dogs that way). No kidding, I once had a parent come to the concession stand and ask to buy salt to throw on his son’s bat to break a dry spell. (I should have charged him a king’s ransom. Gullibility ought to come with a price!!)

Superstition is, by definition, an unjustified belief that doing one thing will lead to certain consequences. By the same token, supernatural is, by definition, to attribute an event to some force beyond scientific understanding. On first examination, these do not sound too different to me. As believers in a supernatural realm, we are sometimes reluctant to admit to superstitious behavior. Yet, there are some who think prayer could fall under the heading of superstitious conduct. After all, we are communicating to a supernatural being with an expectation that we will affect the outcome of a situation based on our communication. Does prayer work? Did the salt break the batting slump? If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then what do you believe?

Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.â€

There have been studies where individuals take a test, then repeat the test after being given a “lucky pencilâ€. The participants almost universally do better on the test when they use the charmed writing instrument. Rational thought tells me the pencil made no difference, however, the human brain seems to take some comfort (or at least confidence) in extraordinary help. I’m not sure that wearing your lucky underwear really helps you get a hit, but if you think it does, then it does! Maybe, as believers, we are more apt to acknowledge the intrinsic value of a talisman because we grasp the idea of leaning on something more than our own understanding. Somewhere between my rational thought and my faithful heart though, it feels like a precarious path.

John 3:16-17 (the less quoted half of that famous scripture): “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.â€

The difference between superstition and supernatural is much the same as the difference between ending your season in September and playing through October. Things get richer and deeper, and there is more at stake. I do not condemn those who find comfort in ritual any more than I judge those who pray for an outcome according to their will. Personally, if I lean on the Lord, this is the path I take:  When I pray, I know I am heard and expect fulfillment of some sort. When I am superstitious, I wonder if it will work and am surprised when it does. As the commercial claims, “Superstition–it’s only weird if it doesn’t work.†Truth is, it’s kind of weird when it does! It is the ultimate in intermittent gratification. When was the last time you were not gratified by prayer? What is the difference between superstition and supernatural, for me? Faith! (Lucky me!!)

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