My son’s baseball team won their first game last night. It was epic. After 17 L’s they finally notched a W. One tiny, priceless, beautiful W, dangling on a hook in the scoreboard window. Ten-little ten-year-old boys leaping around the field hugging and tackling and punching and throwing their hats in the air. Even the opposing team gave us a rousing round of applause. I might have shed a tear…or two.
The game was full of classic moments. Our pitcher threw nine strike-outs as well as hitting a homerun deep into left field, launching his body onto home plate to beat the tag by milliseconds. We caught pop flies, stole bases, and chased after everything with the intensity of one who has nothing to lose. The final game-clinching out was a stellar line-drive snag by our 2nd baseman, who grabbed the ball just inches off the ground and held it aloft in triumph as pandamonium erupted.
But amidst all the excitement, the hugest moments of the game were delivered by the tiniest teammate. The pint-sized boy, who hasn’t had a hit all season long, smacked not one, but two amazing line-drives down center field earning 2 RBIs. The look on his face when he hit first base—with both sides of the bleachers going crazy–is something I will hold on to forever. A co-mingling of shock and absolute delight. The face of payoff for persistent, unwielding determination. After the game, he held the team ball high over his head and announced, “I’ve been waiting for this baby all season long!”
We were all waiting for this baby all season long. And how sweet it was. It took us all a while to leave the field. We lingered in it. We savored it. We bathed in it.
And we learned something. That it’s okay to lose. That it’s worth it to keep trying. That playing the game is about love. And no matter how many Ls show up, you keep showing up right back.
Our youth pastor spoke in “big church” the other day. He spoke about the importance of not falling so in love with the outcome, the hoped for measure of glory, that we forget to fall in love with the process. We want to be thinner, we want to have a better job, we want to be richer, we want to be more holy…we want, we wish, we cling, we climb…because somewhere, up ahead is a better thing.
And it’s all well and good to have goals. But when those goals are all you can fit in your field of vision, then you miss the scenery on the climb. You miss the moments of your life. You forget how to live.
Last night, I thought about the process these boys have been through. The process of learning to lose graciously. The process of willingness to show up to face a team that beat them 12 to 1 the week before. The process of trusting each other and being committed to each and valuing each other and laughing with each other. The process of coming back for more, when more meant heartache.
Without all those Ls, would this W have mattered so much? Would we have relished in it so much? Would anyone really have cared all that much? If we hadn’t walked through the fire swamp together for the last 12 weeks a W would just be a W. But because of the process, a W came to define the measure of a boy’s heart, not the measure of that boy’s performance. They were winners before the ump called the game. They were winners because they didn’t quit. They just showed up. Again and again and again.
And when you do that, sometimes, just sometimes, you get the chance to stand in the results. Not because that was all you were after, but because what you were after was the process–commitment, dedication, perseverance and love of the game. And when a baseball in the hand brings you as much joy as a W on the scoreboard—that’s victory.
Although, I must say, when you do happen to get that W on the scoreboard, celebrate hard. It might be a very small piece of the pie…
But boy, is it tasty.