Throwing Fastballs

Spring Training: what an exciting time! Everything is possible, every hope is real, the pennant’s in everybody’s grasp. Now is the time to work on our fastball as we get ready for—Lent. This year as I’m thinking about Lent, I think Lent starts with some realizations, and the practice of Lent is about making sure those realizations are in line with life:

We aren’t what we’re hungry for. There are many things we want, some are good and some are bad. Sometimes we’re desperate and sometimes we’re patient: as the Bible says, all things come to those who wait.  Hungers can lead to doing some very stupid things, taking stupid risks, believing stupid things and all in a huge hurry. If you’re hungry for something basic, then get it when it makes sense and don’t go overboard. If you’re hungry for something stupid, like driving at night with the lights out, or seeing how much you can do something until you get sick, don’t be stupid.  We can be strong enough not to be stupid.

We aren’t bait. We all need to love and to be loved, that’s basic human nature. Letting ourselves be thought of as wild game to be hunted, or doing the hunting, is stupid. Swimming in a crocodile pond is suicide, as is looking for love in too many faces and all the wrong places. It’s not just romantic love that I’m talking about as well: living your life to get approval is shallow and superficial, no matter whose attention you’re trying to get. “Hey Mom, look at me!” only works until we’re 5, after that it looks stupid. Trying to get the approval of somebody you admire, for whatever reason, is a lot is like shouting: “Hey Mom, look at me!”

 We aren’t what we do. What we do and how we do it matters a lot, but it isn’t our identity: we don’t exist to go to Walmart, either to shop or work. Our value to a big part of society is what we produce and what we consume, but we’re not primarily a producer or a consumer. We work hard and do right by others because we’re good people and don’t want to cheat anyone. Hopefully, we get paid enough to survive and maybe have a personal comfort or two. However, as the ghost of Marley says in A Christmas Carol, people are our business.  That’s who we are: people.  What we do should be inspired by the best of what we are.

 We aren’t what we fear. All of us have irrational fears, some of us cope with them better than others. Fearing what will happen to us if we kill somebody is a rational fear; fearing what will happen if we step in front of a moving car is a rational fear; fearing what someone else thinks of us isn’t. Letting our irrational fears run our lives is bad, for they can ruin our lives and give us a lot of lingering regrets, but it isn’t who we are. We are good people in spite of ourselves, or what we fear.

We belong to God. God made us and at the end of our adventures here, we go back to God. So does everybody else on this planet, and probably every other planet in the Universe. Some will not enjoy this reunion and we’ll probably have reason to be embarrassed when we get there, but God is infinitely merciful. God probably will wonder how we’ve treated everything and everyone else He’s made. Thinking about that now is a splendid idea, and doing something about it a better one. Since God made the universe to stay together, dealing with everything together and with everyone is a splendid idea as well. People who all belong to God probably belong together, at least we should assume that.

We are loved. Somebody giving up their life for you is a pretty good indicator of how much they care about you, how much they love you. It would affect my view on life: I’d probably want to do what I could to repay that love, especially if I thought it was undeserved. Jesus did that, gave his life for us. So looking at Jesus as a role model seems to be a pretty good idea, because of what he did for us.

Lent is about throwing fastballs. We don’t do painful things during Lent because we want to hurt ourselves for being bad people: that’s called masochism and it’s sick. Throwing a good fastball, a straight pitch with a lot on it, takes a lot of training, discipline, technique and courage. We’re not trying to fool anybody with a curve, slider, change-up or knuckle ball. The strike zone isn’t terribly small, but it’s not huge, either. If we don’t do our preparation and don’t have good technique, we’ll get knocked around and be out of the game. Satan’s at the plate and he can hit anything other than a fastball. Striking him out will probably involve some focus, sweat and pain. However our pitching coach, Jesus, always got him out, and if he listen to the coach and do what he says, we will too.  After all, who do we belong to and who are we pitching for?


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