The anxiety I was feeling was as if I were standing at home plate and not my son. He obviously was not as nervous as I remember being in little league baseball. He agreed to play again this year with a pursed bottom lip, a bouncy nod of the head, and a somewhat intrigued “OK…” He went to all the practices with a positive attitude, seemed to have a good time, and was not bothered by the fact that he may have been the smallest one out there (his birthday being right next to the cutoff month).
He was the quintessential boy in the outfield who was more interested in kicking dirt, picking flowers, or spinning around than playing. Or rather, waiting to play. I suppose that’s the hardest part of being in the outfield, you never know if or when you might get some action. He did best at catcher where there was a regular supply of missed pitches from the coach. Still not quite throwing the ball all the way back to the mound, but close, and closer as the season went on.
The hardest part for him was hitting. Seemed like he was always a little behind the ball. Harder this year when three strikes means you’re out and not just getting to hit off the tee. But still, it didn’t seem to bother him too much. I wonder how much he was aware of his shortcomings and overcompensated with a positive attitude. Sometimes after a loss he would repeat “it doesn’t matter if we win or lose, it’s if we have a good time.” Which I totally agree with, but… it feels really great to win! And he celebrated as much as anyone when they won, even if he didn’t contribute much.
I know this parental anxiety is all on me. And I try to not let it show and instead I simply support, help, encourage where I can. I’m not embarrassed as a parent, I just remember how I felt when I didn’t do well. But thankfully he’s not me. Being in the stands feels a million miles from him. Every time he’s up I want to be right behind him, giving him little corrections and building him up with a whispered “You got this!” Instead I find myself hushing the grandparents cause I’m afraid they’re distracting him.
At the last game, I had one of those “I wonder if this is how God feels” moments. I was standing at the back of the park where I could more closely see him in the outfield. Every time he would start to lose interest, I could feel myself trying to telepathically send him nudges. Again, I’m not worried for me, I want him to feel good about this. I want him to know the joy of catching a ball, making a good play, getting on base. I certainly don’t want him to feel like he let the team down by messing up. (Of course, in the grand scheme, knowing these are all good life skills to have experienced.)
I don’t know if God is anxious, but can you imagine the constant disappointment He witnesses. The Bible alludes to angels watching. “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Some say this is God sending angels in the form of regular people just to see what we do. That seems odd to me. I picture it more like a baseball game, where the angels are waiting for us to swing the bat and make contact, thrilling the crowd with our hospitality. So if that’s true, then, oh the disappointment of a losing season they must feel on a regular basis.
I think God is rooting for us. I think He, like a parent, knows He shouldn’t force us to do something against our will. So instead, He’s done everything else: given us support, mentors, reminders, stories, and one literal perfect example of how it could be done. The Bible isn’t a rule book. It doesn’t read like a rule book. It reads more like a story of how everyone messes up, and God is willing to redeem their messes for a greater good. You would think we’d have it all under control by this point with as much as has been messed up in the past. But here we are with new challenges, like cellphones or avoiding discomfort, keeping us from entertaining angels. Maybe they’re not disappointed as much as they are bored.
The point isn’t to entertain them, but to give glory to God through the things we do, for being the creator and sustainer of it all.
The last game of the season, something must have clicked. He got three hits in a row, just when the team needed it the most. Now they weren’t the biggest hits, but fortunately in little league, it doesn’t take much. I know I was more excited than he was. He was happy he made contact, but I’m watching with this much grander perspective on my mind. I love the idea that God reacts the same way. The times when we don’t react in anger. When we show patience, hospitality, forgiveness. When things don’t go our way and we take it on the chin. When we remember to show thankfulness. When we simply do what we know we should be doing anyway, the Angels jump up, arms in the air, and scream “YES! They get it! They’re doing it. LOOK! They’re doing it!”