Anyone who knows me even a little knows there are three main holidays each year of my life: Easter, of course, Christmas is a given and Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. While the first two feed my spiritual soul directly, the third one-the real start of the baseball season- feeds my understanding of the sacred.
I know…stay with me here…
Many years ago my son and I took a road trip to Chicago to attend a big baseball card show (he was really into collecting) and attend games on both the ‘south side’ of Chicago, where the White Sox played (the team that first drafted me out of high school, coincidentally) and the ‘north side’ where my beloved Cubs played (the team that drafted me and signed me after my third year of college). Our four day trip (might have been five) was perfect in so many ways. First it was a father son thing-baseball has a way of bonding fathers and sons; that in itself makes it sacred. But it held something else that has stayed with us both over these many years: a basically secular exercise-attending baseball games-that turned very sacred, very quickly, and stayed that way. We were in sync that trip; we thought alike, talked about stuff going on in both of our lives; we used baseball as a backdrop to expressing love in new ways, stronger ways, more fulfilling ways. It wasn’t anything specific that did this. It just happened.
That trip taught me that a sacred event doesn’t have to be in church or a monastery or while walking in the woods, though all of those places are venues for spiritual events. A spiritual event, something sacred that happens to us can happen anytime, anywhere.
Oh there are the big ones that we expect like Easter or candle light Christmas Eve. But can we find them in the mundane? Are they there at the grocery store or while preparing lunch for our kids in the morning? Is God at the ballgame?
Because I think the answer to those questions is yes, my trip with my son was a powerful reminder, to me, of God’s presence and God’s love. I experienced God’s love in my son’s love and the love I had and have for him.
Our trip to Chicago culminated in a final Sunday afternoon game at Wrigley Field. Now I’m not going to use this space to wax poetic (anyone that knows me also knows I don’t do poetic too good (sic)) about the so-called ‘friendly confines’ but I am going to tell you if there is a ballpark in the world that more people have waxed poetic about than Wrigley Field I don’t know what it is. Wrigley is old; second oldest in baseball. And it is beautifully restored so that when you walk up the tunnel, as Kurt and I did that Sunday afternoon in June, and walk toward your seats (we had box seats thanks to the CEO of Allstate) you literally go back in time. As we emerged from the tunnel and looked at the iconic scoreboard, I remember, like it was yesterday, we looked at each other and smiled a smile of knowing, knowing that we were about to ‘do church’ in a whole different way.
And we did. Perfect weather, all baseball from the minute we left the hotel to the final pitch, love between father and son magnified like I never remember it before or since. The Cubs even won, something they weren’t used to doing in those days.
Kurt and I had a spiritual experience that day not because of what we were doing, but how we were doing it. We were alive to the experience, we were completely tuned in to each other, we were, in short, open to God’s presence in the simple act of attending a baseball game together.
That, to me is the definition of a sacred journey: when how you feel makes what you are doing while you are feeling it irrelevant.
Many have written about the sacred nature of baseball. But for me had Kurt been interested in bird watching and that five day trip had revolved around seeing winged creatures it still would have been sacred no matter what because we had opened ourselves to the perfection of God’s way without over-thinking it, or even articulating it. We just did it.
Our sacred experiences-something the Celts call ‘thin spaces’-are everywhere if we are intentional in looking for them. They are in the smile of a child, the simple act of opening a door for an older person, they are in the homeless and food-insecure people Christ Church will feed this weekend during our Service Weekend. The things we do become sacred when we make them sacred, when we are present to them fully, completely, with all of us. That’s what Kurt and I did that weekend…we opened ourselves to the glorious nature of God’s gift of life to us in the form of a baseball game.
I will be watching my Cubs today at 4pm and rooting for an Opening Day win. But today will bring back a spiritual memory for me that is as powerful as anytime I’ve prayed and felt God present. Today I will relive Opening Day as I relive Easter and Christmas. And God will be there.