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Monday, June 10, 2013

16 Innings and the Longing for Heaven

One of the real advantages of living as near as we do to Springfield, MO is the Springfield Cardinals, Double A Affiliate of the best team in baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals.  Having the Baby Birds here opens up all kinds of excitement.

Not only do we get to go to the ball game and see future major leaguers like Matt Adams and Shelby Miller and John Jay and other current Cardinal standouts.  But now and again, some Cardinal star will be rehabbing and injury and will make a rehab start here in Springfield.  Jake Westbrook did that just recently.  And let’s face it, a night at the ball park is just plain fun. 

So that’s where I took my boys last Friday night.  We had decent seats, just the second row back on the third base side, just about right across from third.  Coaches and players only 30 feet or so away.  Fortunately, this outing didn’t end in our youngest getting hit in the eye with a foul ball (see here and here).  But it did have some excitement.

Some of it we were expecting.  Springfield has Friday Night Fireworks after the game, and we were set for that.  We just didn’t realize how long it would be until “after the game.”

As you can tell from the title of this post, the game went a little bit past the 9 inning regulation.  We blew a 4-2 lead and it was 4-4 after nine.  They scored a couple in the 10th, but then Ruben Gotay hit a two run homer to tie it up again.  Exciting stuff.

We started counting off the innings.  11th.  12th.  13th.  14th.  Since you have a 7th inning stretch, do we get a 14th inning stretch to?  Yep.  We stood and sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" for a second time.  And when we got to the line “I don’t care if we ever get back” there was a little laughter around the stadium.   15th.  16th.  Finally, in the 16th inning, the poor guys on the other team actually walked in the winning run.  (I think they may have done it on purpose just to go home!)

Turns out to be the second longest game in Springfield franchise history.  Because of city ordinances, they did the fireworks early, after the 11th inning I think.  A lot of folks left after that.  We were already in the second row, but with the crowd leaving, we went ahead and moved into the front row for the rest of the game.  The aforementioned Mr. Gotay, who plays 3rd base, came over and tossed our youngest a ball.  Later, a visiting player tossed one to our oldest son.  All in all a fun night.  (The youngest said at one point, “I’m proud that I got to stay up this late to see this.”)

But you know what?  As fun as it was, after awhile I was just ready to go home.  We stayed, because that’s what real fans do, but man… 1:30 in the morning is a bit late (or early) for baseball.  I really started not caring if we even won, I was just ready for it to be over.

And I got to thinking.  Isn’t this a lot like our longing for heaven.  Sure we enjoy this world.  We can get excited about it.  It has a lot of exciting things to offer.  Sometimes we get little perks, like the fireworks and the game-used-baseballs.  But after awhile, you just start looking forward to going home.    

Sometimes, it seems like forever.  You think this might be the last inning.  But then comes the next, and the next, and the next.  And you’re just ready for it to be over.

Now, I’m not trying to be morbid.  I’m not at all suggesting that life is a drudgery, and that I’m all melancholy and looking for the exit.  Like I said, we had fun at the game.  It was exciting, and it’s a memory I’ll share with the boys for a lifetime.  But it was still just a game.  And life moves on, and I was ready to get home.

Likewise, this life is a joy sometimes.  I’m enjoying every minute God gives me here (well…most of them).  And I’ll hang on until God says the game is over.  But in the long run, I realize that this world is just that in many ways. It’s just a game.  Real life is in the presence of our Lord.  And a part of me longs for that home, longs for that rest, longs for real living to truly begin.

So here’s the takeaway, for me anyway… Enjoy life, as long or as short as it might be; 9 innings, or a marathon extra inning affair.  But let’s remember where home is.  Let’s look forward to that eternal place and not put all our hopes and dreams here in this little ballpark.  So, as long or as short as the life might be, I hope to see you at home after the game. 

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