Kevin’s Conversations: The Hope of Opening Day
“You always get a special kick on opening day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.” – Joe DiMaggio
Major League Baseball’s Opening Day occurred earlier this week. While baseball no longer holds the same level of prevalence and allure that it once did throughout this nation, Opening Day is still something altogether special. It is a day that contains so much hope and wonder and joy and excitement. All sports have their opening days, but there still is something magical and distinctive that sets baseball’s Opening Day apart from all the rest.
(In many cases, this is the point where the writer will wax poetic about the beauty and profoundness of Opening Day. But that would require the writer to have the ability to wax poetic. For those of you who are baseball fans, you get it, and you can run imaginary grandiose prose through your own head. For the rest of you, you’ll just have to trust me that Opening Day is a wonderful thing.) 🙂
For most of the history of my Philadelphia Phillies, the excitement of Opening Day is followed by disappointing, if not outright dreadful seasons. Many times that feeling comes in July or August that leads one to say, “Well, there is always next year.” When that feeling comes in April or May, you know you’re in for misery. The Phillies first competed in the National League in 1883……. and won their first World Series in 1980, almost 100 years later, and have won only one more since then. From 1918 to 1948, a stretch of 31 seasons, they had a winning record in exactly 1 of those years. Several years ago, the Phillies were the first professional sports franchise to reach 10,000 losses.
Every once in a while, there is a 1993, however. The 1993 Phillies were coming off a last place finish in the division the year before and 6 straight years of losing records. Expectations were not high, to say the least. Somehow, that club caught lightning in a bottle and went all the way to the World Series, and possibly could have won it all, if not for Joe “#&*%!” Carter. After 1993, the Phillies comfortably settled in for 7 more straight years of losing records. 1993 was the most fun I ever had as a baseball fan, even more so than 2008 when the Phillies won it all. And part of that fun was spawned by the hopes of Opening Day being fulfilled in quite an unexpected fashion.
As Christians, we can experience the hopes and excitement of Opening Day and also the doldrums and pains of long, harrowing seasons. Hope springs eternal when we first come to faith or when we see those who we have been praying for come to faith or when we surrender in repentance and know we have a clean slate with God or at those other instances when we can feel that close communing with God. But then at other times, the storms and snares and temptations and long seasons of life can leave us feeling pretty beaten up, and we long for “next year” when we hope things will be better.
And then every so often there is a 1993 where God surprises us with an unexpected blessing. Where we might be in a long rough patch of life and God comes along and gives us a lift and gives us that extra reassurance. Where even Joe Carter can’t mess up the moment for us.
But no matter where we are in life, there is a significant difference between baseball Opening Day and our faith… and that is we can be assured of the hope of our faith, and most especially the Object of our faith. The Opening Day excitement that we sometimes feel in our faith is a hope that truly does spring eternal. Our faith is in a God who is wholly good and just and true and that will never change. And so we know, no matter how bad the season goes, no matter how many losses we incur, our faith is in a God who will carry us through to victory.
As I get excited about baseball’s Opening Day, I know that this season is probably going to end in defeat for the Phillies. Chances are that they won’t even finish the season with a winning record, let alone win the World Series. Even the greatest optimist who is a fan of the seemingly strongest team on Opening Day knows in the back of their mind that victory is far from a guarantee.
As baseball fans, we know that the Opening Day hopes of 29 out of every 30 of us are going to end in vain this year. As Christians, we know it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1
“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” – I John 5:11-13