I am excited it is baseball season. And it’s not just because I think the Phillies will win 75 games. Baseball is one of my favorite sports because it just has the perfect timing. We are finally out of the dread of winter, the length of Lent, and spring has sprung. It’s time to play outside again and baseball reminds us of that. Baseball in April and May has a light-hearted feeling that September and October baseball perfectly contrasts. Some people think that the season is too long (162 games!) or the pace is too slow (usually a three-hour experience), but I like its slowness and its epic duration mainly because it is almost never too late to do something new and to change the course that you are going. Every pitch, at-bat, game, series, and month count. And at every single interval you can alter your trajectory for succeeding. In baseball, it matters more what you are going to do next than what you did in the past.
The Phillies are finally learning this as the 2008 team is almost completely dismantled (Big Piece and Chooch are still holding on) and we are looking toward our bright future, one that may turn us around much faster than we think. This season, more than most others, is a sign of new things and new life. It is the ultimate baseball season.
The excitement and opportunity of new life and new things can be clouded by an obsession with our past. If you’re only thinking about how you struck out at your last at-bat, or how many games it has been since you’ve gotten a hit, or the fact that you’ve consistently struggled in this ballpark or against this pitcher, I think your chances for success are greatly reduced. The same is true if all you have are memories of when you used to be good or that one year when you won the World Series.
I was reminded of this love for newness the other night when the Cell Leader Coordinators were offering me a midterm review. I love those people and I certainly felt loved in return. I was reflecting on the last term and really the last six years of church planting and I was struck by the loss and suffering that comes with following the Good Shepherd. Estranged relationships, lost faith, growing apart—all of these things bubbled back up in my reflection. I’ve grown older, a little less cool, developed a different posture, become more in touch with my own demons too. My eyes opening up more also allows me to see pain in a new kind of way. I also behave differently as a 30-year-old pastor than a 24-year-old one. Sometimes I long for the endless passion and energy of that other kid (but rarely do I long for the foolishness). It’s easy to romanticize the past or get stuck in its pain. But the Lord is more concerned with what we are doing next with and through him.
If you are more concerned and focused on what you have done in the past, you may lose sight of what God wants to do in you next. I love the forward-thinking proverb of Circle of Hope: we are called to move with what the Spirit is doing next.
There is freedom in the newness that the Spirit offers, but there is risk too. For some of us, being freed from our past is a relief. Our mistakes, our sin, our pain—we can let that go and engage in a new life with Christ. For some of us, it means leaving what is comfortable, familiar, familial, the nostalgic. So there is risk involved. I don’t want to assume the prospect of moving into what God has for us next is easy or always liberating. But it is what is given to us. We can’t live in the past, for better or for worse. So I hope you’re up for an adventure nevertheless. I am. And God is with us.
I hope you can be encouraged by the prospect that God is indeed doing something new in you today. That this new day brings a new opportunity. I resonate with G.K. Chesteron when he writes:
“Here ends another day, during which I have had eyes, ears, hands, and the great world around me. Tomorrow begins another day. Why am I allowed two?”
In our new day, I hope you find new opportunities to see what Jesus has for you next.
One last story.
Lately, it’s been tough to get enough shut eye for me. Up late doing homework, and then up early with my two daughters. I woke up one morning feeling particular tired (and allergic—thanks to the April blossoms). Then I looked out of window—and there it is: a new tree. One that promises to blossom with new life. Thanks to treephilly.org, we became proud owners of a new tree on our block. So sweet and such a good reminder that there is always opportunities for new life, resurrection, and what the Spirit is doing next. Every day can be like Opening Day.