“Here’s the 0-1…this is gonna be a tough play…Bryant!…the Cubs!!!..WIN THE WORLD SERIES!!! Bryant makes the play!! It’s over!! And the Cubs have finally won it all, 8-7 in ten!!”
Joe Buck’s words reverberated across the nation, Chicago erupting into bewildered revelry, a 108-year-old curse shattering into pieces. The Chicago Cubs, known for generations as the “lovable losers” who could find a way to choke in any circumstance, were now the undisputed top dogs – winner of the 2016 World Series.
“No more waiting until next year,” as Buck so eloquently put it – no more next game, no more tough practice session tomorrow, no more drowning in negative headlines. The players could finally let it all go. You could see the worries drop from their shoulders, the internal pressures released. Kris Bryant, having nailed the final toss, leaping across the field like Neil Armstrong on the moon; Anthony Rizzo pocketing that winning ball and flinging his glove aside to leap into a bouncing throng of teammates; fans nationwide collapsing in relief as they watched, their blood pressure dropping just as quickly. Their team…not a newly adopted playoff favorite, but their long-cherished team…had finally won it all.
For me, the most heartwarming moment of the night was watching YouTube videos of elderly folks reveling in their homes. There was none of that when my Seahawks won the Super Bowl; they’re a younger team in a younger sport, no fans in their nineties to watch a lifelong dream come true. That night, ninety-year-olds Cubs fans clapped gleefully like kids from their rocking chairs, their bodies even remembering how to dance for a few moments. They had hung on, disappointment after disappointment, for almost a century. At long last, they had been rewarded.
And thinking of that, I felt…an ache.
It was not the ache of worrying about next season. (By the way, while I have you here – don’t do that. Don’t let your thoughts start turning to whether they’ll repeat next year, to worrying about the draft and free agency, to wondering whether this was all a fluke. Not so soon. They just won the World Series. For goodness’ sake, rest and enjoy it. That’s my advice, from someone whose football team won it all three years ago. Some fans will never know this joy.)
No, this ache was something else.
I have battles in which I’m still hanging on. They may not have lasted 108 years, but they’re still long for me, and yours are still long for you.
And as the Cubs exulted on that baseball diamond, I believe many of us sighed: “I want that.”
If you felt that, this post is for you. I think it is good to give this thought its moment, to give it some air, to risk letting it surface and allowing God to see it honestly.
We long to feel the way the Cubs did on that diamond…relaxing at last, the anxious questions answered, the prayer granted, the dream achieved, the mission accomplished.
To bring our loved one home from the hospital with a clean bill of health. To finally break into the career we’ve dreamed of after decades of work. To see our church plant rise from a long, frustrating infancy and finally start reaching the community. To hear the judge speak the words of exoneration or parole for which we have petitioned and fought for years. To stand before an altar reciting wedding vows. To bring forth a long-delayed child. To complete the ponderous adoption of a child. To finally hold that benefits check that will spare our children from a decade of debt. To hear the prayer of salvation pouring from the lips of the friend or loved one for whom you have campaigned in prayer since childhood.
We sigh in our longing for the sweet taste of victory.
And we do not know whether we will get in this life.
The time has come for me to say something unpleasant. I wouldn’t say it if I cared only about gaining hits for my blog. But I can choose to say either what is popular or what is true. I choose the latter.
We will not get every victory.
Not here. Not on this side of the veil, this side of heaven. It’s time I made clear my belief on that, because my blog has been swerving towards the “power and promises” side of things for months now. I admit that’s certainly the more hopeful side, the more fun to read side, the more “this will get you more followers” side. But if you believe you can achieve every victory if you’re just faithful enough, or just powerful enough, or just positive enough, then you are deceived. That’s not what the Bible says. I have to acknowledge that.
Some victories we seek are frivolous, silly, and no more eternally valuable than (quite frankly) the Cubs victory. Other victories will come in our lifetimes, thank God. Still others – well, they are simply casualties of the emptiness of this life. We don’t know why. We can’t always know. But we know that there will be a groaning until all is finally revealed. What is the point of heaven otherwise?
So we stand once again upon a precipice of doubt. We see the Cubs celebrate and wonder, Will I ever get my moment?
Maybe. Maybe not.
The Cubs didn’t sweep the series. They started 3-1, nearly lost it all before coming back. They had their losses.
The Christian life is a powerful campaign and a letting go, an accepting of loss, all at the same time.
But I have a word for those of us who stand upon that precipice and wonder if they will ever know the wonderful relief, release, recompense, and revelry of receiving that which you have beseeched God in prayer. I know your longing, the weight of it staggering, on some days almost breathtaking, threatening to drown your joy if you’re not careful. I know. I know it well. I would love nothing more than to just say “yes, it will happen. You’ll be Kris Bryant one day.”
I cannot. For I do not know.
But I can be Jason Heyward to you.
During a rain delay following that ninth inning in Game 7, the tensest ninth inning in the history of baseball, with the game tied at 6, with his team looking ready to blow a 5-1 lead in classic fashion, Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward riled up his exhausted teammates with an inspiring weight room speech.
“He spoke up and said this is about your teammates,” David Ross said. “He just said, `We’re the best team in baseball for a reason. Continue to play our game, support one another. These are your brothers here, fight for your brothers, lift them up, continue to stay positive. We’ve been doing this all year so continue to be us.’
“Continue to be us.”
What are we? What must we continue to be?
Children of the living God. Heirs of eternity, our souls sealed. Made holy by the blood of Christ. Dearly loved. Granted the power of Christ. Offered far more than we could ask or imagine. Delighted in by God, even if our disappointments make us struggle to delight back. Conquerors in him who loves us.
I cannot promise what will happen if you “get back out there and keep fighting”. You might win. The Cubs might still have lost despite Heyward’s speech.
But I can promise what will likely happen if you give up. Nothing.
And I can promise you one more thing, something that falls into the “more than we could ask or imagine” category but is rarely considered by the majority of Christians.
Our entrance into heaven will be just like that World Series ending.
All pain and toil will be forgotten. All internal pressure will be released. All we have lost will be restored. Every tear, every malady, every injustice, every sin erased. On that day, God will have won. We will bound down the golden streets as Kris Bryant did. We will leap headlong into that great cloud of witnesses – no longer witnesses, but fellow revelers. And we will fall into the arms of Jesus, who waits eagerly for our arrival, who is waiting until we arrive to drink wine again (Mark 14:25).
Whatever you do not receive on this earth, you will receive – and more – in heaven.
Our Game 7 is coming.