Little did I know we would become a part of history.
Perhaps like me, you didn't know much about the context of the game on Monday. The Cleveland Indians pitcher Cliff Lee earned his 20th victory of the season Monday night, throwing only a five-hitter in a 5-0 win over the Chicago White Sox. I learned that he was the first Indians pitcher to win 20 games since 1974, and the 34-year wait between 20-game winners was the longest in the American League. (Arizona's Brandon Webb has tried twice to reach 20 and lost both times.)
Again, I knew none of this going in. I was just there for the good time.
So there I was, somewhere on the third base line with a great view of the game. Only I was a bit distracted, laughing at how the hoarse-throated guy selling beer sounded like a wearied version of the Cookie Monster and musing about last season's episode of LOST. I was in my own world.
Suddenly the fans begin clapping, cheering, and standing up. I figured something was up, and so I set my nachos down and stood as well to stare at the scoreboard and process the rather impressive stats. Soon I started to realize that something bigger than I imagined was taking place before my very eyes.
That last inning was beyond tense. "Would he do it?" everyone wondered. You could tell the game had been a full load for Lee, and he was pulling out his last round of tricks and energy to keep the shutout against the Sox. While I grew up in Chicago and am a natural fan of its pro sports, I found myself rooting for Cliff Lee that night. And after a tremendous double play ended the game, the fireworks went off and the fans erupted.
23,317 fans were there to take part in it all, and I was one of them... even if I didn't plan on such fanfare.
After all, I was just there to have a good time.
On the way out, all the fans were handed free posters that celebrated the moment. Nothing anyone planned on getting, and yet were blessed by. Something that would allow us to remember the deeper meaning of the day beyond the nachos, bobble heads, and puffy fingers.
I ended up grabbing several to pass out to my neighbors, figuring it was just one way to share the blessing and continue building the good relationships God has been allowing us to establish. It gave me a reason to chat with people I normally wouldn't have an in-road with, and so the blessing of Monday became the continued blessing all this week.
Kind of like how this past Sunday I watched our church pull together and move from one building to another in less than three hours. While all that happened, we physically walked a cross down the road, passing it off from one set of individuals to another like a sacred sort of Olympic torch run.
No press was invited... this was just our way of celebrating God through something tangible... something that would allow us to remember the deeper meaning of the day beyond the moving trucks, bungee cords, and brooms.
That's because in just a little over a week, we will have a grand opening in a new building that we have become responsible for. Its open doors to the community will serve as a symbol of the open relationships we long to have with its people, all so that they might form one with God Himself. And so the days before and after that will involve a lot of sweat that could easily become about paint, lumber, and staging.
My hope and prayer is that it isn't... that like the poster I received Monday night, this day and this place are simple tools to all at the same time remember something Bigger than ourselves and love our neighbor.
All throughout the Bible, we find people building altars or doing something tangible to remind them of an intangible. That's because we are forgetful people, and we easily turn inward at the slightest drop of the hat. When things go right, we mentally pat ourselves on the back for our achievement; when things go wrong, we shake a fist at God for being unfair.
But there is a bigger thing happening that having a good time. It requires "for better or for worse" commitment on the part of its people, who are willing to cheer when the victory is sweet as well as when the elongated wait for "something" seems hard to bear.
I learned that it was only a year ago that Cliff Lee was recalled to the pro's from the AAA league. Here is a guy who probably was full of inward doubts, let alone outward attacks. On Monday he and Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski exchanged stares and words throughout the game, and even stonefaced each other at the end of the game. Later, Lee thanked Pierzynski for slamming his bat down after popping up in the fourth and eyeballing Lee as he ran to first. "I stared back," he said. "He was chirping from the dugout the rest of the game. It gave me extra energy. I appreciate that."
Then again, the night was full of congratulatory messages from Hall of Famers players via satelite on the scoreboard.
Every one of us stands poised to take part in great history every day, and yet most of us let our inward and outward opposition get to us... a moment when the scoreboard of our lives can reflect something great that everyone longs to be a part of.
But it means setting the nachos down and standing against the adversaries we feel would like to consume us - bills, relationships, work stuff, state of the world, and so on.
And it means desiring more than a good time... it means letting your time become good.
It means rolling up our sleeves, prepping for some sweat, denying ourselves, and carrying our cross.
And if we do, we will be a part of His Story...
a kind that others are encouraged by and want to be a part of... even if it happens unexpectedly.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.(Hebrews 12:1)