Softball as a Sacred Space

During the first summer of our marriage my husband severely broke his ankle while playing church softball. The second his foot hit the bag he knew he was in trouble; his foot pointed in the wrong direction and flopped around like a fish out of water as his teammates hauled him off and parked him on the hillside bordering the field.

At first, his friends did not want to acknowledge the seriousness of the injury. “Walk it off!” they encouraged. Afraid that they would have to forfeit the game because of the slim turnout of players that night made Pete invaluable so long as he could play.

Once he was deemed a non-contributor, they left him on the sidelines and continued to play one man down. A wife on the opposing team finally found a pay phone (no cell phones back in those days) and called me to come fetch my now worthless husband.

To be fair, when his friends heard that he had been rushed into surgery and told he may never walk normally again, two of them apologized for their competitive ways. Two.

Decades later, I still ponder this story. I marvel at how easily we abandon our core values for our passions. When the scriptures tell us that we belong to the truth, it is in no way implying that we are actually living by the truth. What it is saying is this: God gets us. He is truth. He is greater than our hearts, our passions, even the way other humans talk about him. We can rest in his presence because he is safe, not because we have figured out how to get life right. We can and will make mistakes - this does not change God’s attitude toward us.

But there is a caveat. We need to pay attention and acknowledge the truth about ourselves. We need to wrestle when our life is out of sync with what we say we value. On that hot August night in 1978 an entire team of Christian men were so distracted by their softball record that they let a fallen friend lay forgotten in agony while they returned to their respective positions.

Step one challenges us to acknowledge the real deal with ourselves, to name our compulsive way of being in the world AND its devastating effects on our lives (and eventually the lives of others). We do not thrive when our life is unmanageable. The chaos creates a forgetfulness that crowds out love to make room for our addiction. When we are not living a manageable life, we are feeding shame and condemnation. That stuff does a good enough job of bringing us down on its own - it does not need us feeding it more fodder by living unconsciously!

My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. 1 John 3:18-20 The Message