A good subtitle for this post might be “What Baseball Has Taught Me About Heaven.”
I love baseball. Those who know me well know that I dearly love the Detroit Tigers. I freely admit that watching a game at Comerica Park (on a summer evening with a Detroit craft brew in my hand) makes me happier than few other things in this world. Like any good baseball fan, I have my favorite players. For several years (with a particular emphasis on 2012-2014), Rick Porcello was My Tiger. He wasn’t the best player on the team, but he was often a good player. He seems like a good man. This game on my 26th birthday was particularly awesome.
And then about three years ago, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox. I still like Ricky P. But he’s not My Tiger any more. J.D. Martinez became My Tiger. And then he was traded. Before I could really attach myself to my next prospective My Tiger, Alex Avila was traded. And last night, Ian Kinsler was traded.
Now, you will tell me (and rightly so) that such is the nature of baseball. Gone are the days of a player staying with his team for an entire career. This is true. I will find a new Tiger next season. I will love him until he leaves, and then I’ll find a new My Tiger. Porcello will always have a special place in my heart as will Martinez, Avila, and Kinsler, but they’re not Tigers anymore. Baseball is transient.
So is life. We are not made for this world. As St. Therese of Lisieux reminds us, the world is our ship and not our home. We were not made for this world. We were made for heaven. Like baseball players, we are not meant to always be here. We are meant for something greater. We cannot stay in one place and never move forward, never improve as Christians.
“If we are created for royal glory, royal glory will fulfill us.”
-Dr. Peter Kreeft
We were made to be saints. Just as baseball players are meant to play their best, work together as a team, and win championships, we are called to live lives of holiness. This means that we need to move beyond those things that hold us back from God, that hinder us from holiness. We need to lay aside our earthly care and fix our eyes on the King of Kings.
Brothers, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Is this easy? No, it is far easier for me to let go of J.D Martinez as my Tiger than it is for me to let go of long-held patterns of sin. That doesn’t mean that I can’t let go of those patterns. It simply means that it is hard. I used to hope that J.D. Martinez or Rick Porcello would come back to Detroit. I had loved them while they were here, and I wanted them to come back. I wanted them to be part of bringing a World Series championship to Detroit.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
But their time in Detroit has passed. This is not their place or their home anymore. I have to let go of them. I can support them where they are now, but I can’t try to hold them back. (Not that I ever had any real power to do so anyway) Similarly, I cannot hold on to things that keep me from pursuing God’s call on my life. They might be fun, but I cannot surround myself with things or people that are not life-giving, that do not tend to sanctity.
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…
Now this isn’t some great announcement that I’m leaving something big behind. Rather, it is a reminder that there are things here and there within our lives that keep us from pursuing God with our whole hearts, with our whole lives. I’ll have to find a new My Tiger soon; I have to lay aside my dreams of Porcello or Martinez in the D. (I also have to lay aside my dreams of marrying Rick Porcello; that was always a ridiculous hope.) This is not their home; this place will not help them to become the best baseball players they can be at this point in their careers. They need to seek to be the best athlete that they can be. I need to seek to be a saint.
If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God.