Becoming a Phillies fan was not an option for me; it was a reality I accepted by virtue of genetics and a tradition of loyalty to Philadelphia sports teams. Three weeks before my eighth birthday, I stood in front of a mirror admiring my favorite Phillies T-shirt. Once satisfied with my ensemble, I bounded down the stairs to meet my dad and little sister, who proudly donned identical T-shirts. Soon after, my dad's wood-paneled station wagon rolled along the Ben Franklin Bridge, carrying us to Philadelphia. As Veteran's Stadium came into view, I could feel the air around me thicken with the smell of hotdogs and cotton candy. Percolating with anticipation, my little feet tapped the floor of the backseat as we pulled into the parking lot.
When my dad handed me my ticket, I admired it like a precious jewel and was careful not to bend the edges. I don't think I took a breath until we made our way through the sea of almost 67,000 fans to our seats. There I sat, wide-eyed and awestruck, a pretzel in one hand, a Coke in the other. This wasn't the first time I visited the Vet to see the Phillies play, but tonight was different.
It was Game 4 of the 1983 World Series.
On this particular night, the field seemed brighter than usual, the sounds more piercing, the smells more pungent. By the fifth inning, I was absolutely intoxicated by intense sensory input. Even though the Baltimore Orioles swept the Phillies in five games to win the '83 World Series, that experience is forever burned into my memory. I think I spent the entire next month impressing family and friends with my imitation of Mike Schmidt's characteristic backside-wiggle and famous swing.
Today, as I watch my husband play from the wives section, I sometimes think about that time when the game was just a game and not a career.
The Infamous Slump
As a professional, my husband has established his own techniques of overcoming these setbacks on the field. As his wife, the "downs" of baseball present unique challenges off the field. Fortunately, Cody rarely takes his professional life home with him. Still, the emotional and physical rollercoaster that is innately baseball requires nurturing, support and encouragement.
During the first few months of this season, I found myself creeping to the edge of my seat when Cody came to bat. I'd watch intently and hope that this at-bat would be the turning point. His uncharacteristically slow start at the plate caused a bit of frustration, especially since we were new to the organization this season. As I tried to analyze every aspect of his approach, which, by the way, I know nothing about, I felt trapped by my inability to provide an answer. During a conversation with another wife, I realized that I was wasting my time worrying. As we talked about finding peace in baseball, I was reminded that I am not in control of what happens in our life, nor is my husband. As humans, we falter, but we don't face challenges alone.
The Gift of Humility
It is always a struggle to accept the gift of humility with honor and a grateful heart. When faced with such challenges, Cody and I lean on our Heavenly Father and look to Him for guidance. God has blessed my husband with a talent and has given us a unique platform from which to praise Him. Who are we to question the nuts and bolts of our experience? With patience comes acceptance and, often, a ladder out of a slump. It is only through our relationship with the Lord that we have come to know this truth. Will additional setbacks be waiting in the wings? Sure. Will they be difficult and annoying? Absolutely. Regardless, we press on.
Exacerbating the severity of slumps is the fact that crucial decisions are often made on the basis of numbers alone. There is a risk of associating identity with the successful completion of tasks (whether related to baseball, brains, beauty, bounty, etc ). When we slump, our identities are at risk. It's perhaps in knowing we are loved by God, despite the slump, that stabilizes our identity and allows us to experience peace.
Our blessings are numerous and extend far beyond baseball. In every situation, we firmly believe that the Lord has our best interest at heart and that His plan for us is greater than any we can create for ourselves. The people we meet, the places we visit, the struggles we face all work in concert to bring us to where we are right now which is exactly where we are supposed to be. Envy? Frustration? Selfish ambition? When they slither into the equation, they obstruct true peace and contentment.
While setbacks are an inescapable part of baseball and of life in general we strive to avoid spiritual slumps by praying constantly, seeking solace in the Word and keeping our eyes on the true prize.
After all, the game is still just a game and our true calling is to live as the children of God we were intended to be, in power and peace.