24 Oct Made in God’s Image (and Baby Shark)
As I sit at my desk and write this morning, the Washington Nationals are up 2-0 over the Houston Astros in the World Series. Their thrilling, improbable run through October continues, and as exciting as it has been, I am glad this is the last week of the 2019 season. I just don’t know how much more my nerves can take!
As we come down the homestretch—and what will hopefully be a World Series championship celebration—I want to share a couple of final takeaways from the season. First, if the 2019 Nationals have demonstrated anything to us, it is that when joy is combined with perseverance, anything can happen. I wrote about perseverance last week as it has been exemplified in the Nats’ mantra “Stay in the Fight.” Alongside their gritty determination, though, joy has erupted throughout the clubhouse. From home run dance parities in the dugout, to funky-colored sunglasses, to group hugs this team has celebrated the joy of playing a game they dearly love. They have remembered to appreciate the many small, special moments of a long 162-game marathon.
However, nothing has embodied the team’s joy quite like the “Baby Shark” phenomenon. What started as Gerardo Parra’s choice of a walk-up song (in honor of his kids) soon encompassed the team and their fans in a mania that defies description. Except perhaps it doesn’t. It is impossible to sing this silly, repetitive children’s song with a straight face, especially if you add the hand motions. To watch an entire ballpark—men and women, young and old—singing and “chomping” still makes me laugh, no matter how many times I’ve seen it.
Baseball reminds us that even when life is difficult, there are always moments of wonder, joy, and connection around us, if we’ll only pay attention. It is not a small thing to notice a beautiful sunset or the changing of the leaves, to give or receive a hug, to express our gratitude, or to enjoy a pumpkin-spiced something on a crisp autumn morning. It is important to celebrate and appreciate our families and friends who walk with us through the mundane and monotonous, for their faithfulness and perseverance is a beautiful gift that graces our lives and can be a deep source of joy if we don’t take them for granted.
For all the wonderful metaphors and life lessons that baseball epitomizes, there is one takeaway that highlights the limitations of how far baseball can take us. Professional athletes in every sport are judged on one primary criterion: performance. A baseball player might be the nicest guy in the world, active in civic and charitable endeavors, a great husband/dad/neighbor/teammate. But he is paid to do one thing: play ball and play it well. If he doesn’t hit or field or pitch up to the standard set for him, he will be replaced by someone who can.
That is true for many of us. In our work, whatever it may be, we are paid to perform a particular job or service. My congregation expects me to show up every Sunday with a sermon in hand, prepared to preach and lead worship with a certain level of energy and expertise. They are right to expect that—that’s what I’ve been hired to do.
Where we run into trouble is when we fail to separate what we do with who we are. Our intrinsic worth as human beings is not dependent on how we perform. We are loved, we are treasured, we are valuable just because we exist. Scripture tells us that God loves us and has made us in God’s own image and that alone is the basis for our worth. It is also the ultimate source of our joy and the reason no one can ever take away our truest joy.
God loves you. You are good—and good enough—just like you are. So, go ahead. Celebrate! Dance, sing, laugh, whoop to the skies. Revel in the masterpiece that is you. And if a Baby Shark happens to erupt in the process, so much the better. Nats, finish the fight!!!
Yours for the Kingdom,