Athletes, of any people group, should understand the importance of playing “the long game.” True, deep satisfaction comes from hours of hard work, training one’s body for performance, and then succeeding on the field. Unfortunately, instead of driving us into the long game, our world tricks us into chasing marshmallows.
By now, most people know about the “Marshmallow Experiment” performed at Stanford University in the 1960s and early 1970s led by psychologist Walter Mischel. The studies were designed to study delayed gratification and found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes. To get a picture of how this test was executed, watch this video.
What are the marshmallows in the baseball culture? Tournament teams. Playing hundreds of games in a year. Ignoring training for the sake of being on a field to play. And this is the trick - there might not be anything “wrong” with eating those marshmallows. They satisfy some of our urges and serve a purpose. But do they allow the players to maximize their abilities more than a training regimen and strategic opportunities to play the game against high-level opponents? I would argue “no” and call them marshmallows (and expensive marshmallows at that).
More importantly - what are the marshmallows in our spiritual lives? Praying “the prayer” and thinking that’s all you have to do. Listening to a podcast from a great Biblical teacher instead of going to church in your community and engaging with people. Devoting a few minutes on the front end of your day to God, but leaving Him on the shelf for the rest of the day. These also seem to satisfy our spiritual longings and serve a purpose, but they fail to allow us to fully integrate God in every corner of our lives.
God’s plan has always been to rescue and bless His rebellious people. Jesus is the culmination of a massive, long, true, and incredible story that spans thousands of years. God’s plan may be the greatest definition of “the long game.” Throughout 2019 (and possibly beyond), Bottom of the Ninth will be dedicated to one purpose - to dive into the books of the Bible, its wisdom and themes, and how every corner of the Scriptures can be transferred and applied to the baseball diamond. This project will be called “A Baseball Guy’s Guide to the Bible” and tell the never-changing story of the long game God is working out through His people. God was silent for hundreds of years before Christ, and sometimes the thousands of years since the Resurrection feels as if Christ’s second coming is farther away than it is close. As hard as it is, we have to keep our focus on the long game of God’s plan and experience the deep satisfaction that comes from a focus on the long term.
Don’t chase the marshmallow. Play the long game. Be blessed.