Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” The middle of May to the middle of June represents my favorite time of the baseball calendar. From state high school championships to college conference tournaments to national tournaments to the College World Series in Omaha, the end of the spring and the beginning of summer offers the best the game has to offer at any level.
As our high school team moves into the state final four for the third time this weekend, our program also has a number of alumni still competing in their postseason tournaments at the next level. Daniel Butler’s season at Westmont ended last week just one game away from the NAIA World Series. Matt Whalen stopped by practice this week on his way to the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado. Hayden Gerlach is competing in the NWAC championship tournament this weekend in Washington state. Greg Popylisen, Valor’s one alumni draftee to date, is competing in the WAC Championships with hopes of winning an NCAA Regional here soon.
With all of this championship baseball being played, it reminds all of us of the deep desire we all have to win. Winning seems to justify the hard work invested in a season, and, on a much deeper level, one’s very existence. Winning and winning championships has been elevated to idol status in our culture. And, if we know anything from the Ten Commandments, idols above God are not healthy.
But wait a minute. Are we supposed to not try or desire to win? Is Psalm 23:1 in line with the teachings of other religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism where emptying ourselves in our desires draws us closer to enlightenment or perfection? I know I’ve allowed myself to slip into such a misunderstanding to try to attain a deeper relationship with God.
However, in listening to a sermon by Timothy Keller this week, Keller explained that God instills in us some healthy wants. Desire becomes unhealthy when we covet what someone else has. But, in a competition, no one has the win yet! That means we can be free to pursue a win in competition. This idea is huge and should free us up to compete in a Godly manner.
But maybe the greater gift we have the realm of team competition is the opportunity for us to dump our individual desires into the desires of the collective. In team sports like baseball, every player has the opportunity to be forgetful of one’s self and pursue the desire of the team. This becomes the most important spiritual battle in any team competition. When individuals cease to worry about themselves, forget about their own ego, and become interested only in what the team accomplishes together, amazing things happen. If we don’t come through, we should immediately forget our failure and turn our attention to the next guy with the opportunity to come through for the team. As I once heard from former Colorado Rockies General Manager Dan O’Dowd, “It doesn’t matter who comes through as long as someone does.”
May we all enter into championship play over the next month with that mindset. When we do, the greater gift of championship baseball will shine through – the memories and relationships forged in those incredible times.