Even living in Florida, I find myself still being a diehard fan of the Cincinnati Reds. One of my “new” best friends is a diehard Chicago Cubs fan, and almost every week we have a conversation related to how the Reds and the Cubs are doing this season.
This season has been more of a high ride for the Cubs than for the Reds, so it was extremely comforting to me the other day to be able to discuss with my friend Billy Hamilton’s outstanding defensive play in centerfield against the Cleveland Indians. The ball was hit long and hard to center field, and was perhaps going to be a home run, or at least an extra base hit. But speedster Billy Hamilton, the Reds’ centerfielder, was not going to let that happen.
As Billy neared the fence, tracking the ball’s flight all the way, he jumped at just the right moment and caught the ball securely in his glove as he neared the fence. His momentum however, forced him to jump up on the fence, and his arms and elbows, including the ball-in-glove hand went clear over the top of the fence into the laps of the first-row fans.
In that split second while he was on top of the fence, he allowed them to take the ball out of his glove and then they gave it to one of the kids sitting nearby, even though the kid was wearing a Cleveland Indians t-shirt.
What an amazing catch!
What an amazing gesture!
Seeing the replay of that fantastic catch reminded me of one of my “fantastic” catches years ago when my youngest son was playing baseball in the Hillsboro summer baseball program. The season had been a victorious one for his team, and at the end, the coach decided to celebrate the team’s successful run with a team picnic.
One of the “traditional” elements of any such picnic is a short parent-vs.-kids game, and in that game, particularly for the parents, but also for the kids, the various positions are “up for grabs.”
Obviously recognizing talent when they see it (ha!), the powers-that-be on the parents’ team decided that I should play shortstop! Now in my earlier days of softball, mostly in church-league games, I played catcher and sometimes third base, but never shortstop. I know that they had seen my lightning-fast speed, and my great arm, but they had forgotten that this Dad was a 50-something (then!) and had seen his better days!
Anyway, things went just fine until one of the youngsters hit a pop-fly to the shortstop. What should have been a routine play turned into a rather interesting, if not down-right-traumatic situation.
As I was gathering the round missile flying right toward my open glove into my bifocal sights, I suddenly realized that there were not one but two baseballs coming my way! And I chose to catch the wrong one!
The other one caught me on the chin, and left a swollen, bruised goatee-like mark on my lower lip!
You know, I cannot help but see some spiritual truth in that incident. Aside from the obvious premise of children “honoring” your father and mother found in Ephesians 6:1-4 (That son, even now years later, has not let me forget that I “took one for the team – ha!”), there is the practical advice also found in Proverbs 4:25, which says, “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.”
Now obviously I had lost my gaze and was not fixing my eyes on the baseball that afternoon! Had I been fixing my eyes upon the ball, I would have easily caught the ball in the glove – right where it is supposed to have ended up! Spiritually speaking, we oftentimes lose our gaze as well.
We get sidetracked, and detoured and our attention and energy and effort goes elsewhere, when the Scriptures clearly tell us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Fixing our eyes on Jesus will not only give us a clearer vision of who He is, where He came from, and what He came to do, but also of who we are, where we have come from, and where we are going!
But there is also a second spiritual lesson I learn from this incident as well. The world we live in is a bifocal (or maybe even trifocal or quad-focal) world. By that I mean that as we go through life, we see a lot of good things that may look like they are worth setting our gaze upon.
We set our gaze upon things that we think will complete our lives, give us meaning, purpose, direction, and happiness, only to find that all those things seem to be illusions. We have caught the wrong ball! It has often been reported that J. Paul Getty, the oil billionaire, once said that he had spent all his life climbing the ladder of success, only to discover that when he reached the top the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall.
So it is when we chase after the illusory goals of money, success, fame, fortune.
Billy Hamilton makes fantastic catches almost every day and every game he plays for the Reds. One of the primary reasons he can do so is because he focuses on the “right ball” as it zooms toward him.
There are a lot of false “baseballs” to set our sights on, but fixing our eyes on Jesus will allow us to make the right play! So that’s the challenge, isn’t it?
Let’s fix our eyes upon Jesus this week!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Hillsboro Times-Gazette and the Wilmington News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Faith Community Church in Hillsboro and Port William UMC.