A little over a decade ago, I was directed to attend Licensing School, a necessary step toward serving a church in the United Methodist Church. Having survived a seminary degree and several additional courses that the Virginia Conference tacked on to my post-seminary studies, I was frustrated by the need to spend ten days away from my family, which included a newly-minted year-old son. I found myself back in a dormitory-style living situation for the first time in seven years and surrounded by people I had never met before. My attitude was … less than superb.
During the day, the would-be licensed pastors spent a work day absorbing lectures about different aspects of what it would mean to be the leader of a local church. To be honest, licensing school covered subjects, like how to officiate a wedding or a funeral, that seminary never did, and was potentially more helpful in a week and a half than whole semesters in grad school had been. But I was still grinding against the structure, and the separation from my family. And then, it happened.
I’m not sure exactly what started it. Maybe it was because I always have sports equipment rolling around in the trunk. Maybe someone else mentioned it. But a few of us realized that behind the dorms at night, there was an area that the floodlights illuminated in a grassy area. There was enough space, maybe not for a full football or soccer field, but a wide enough space for a mini-baseball field – or a whiffle ball field.
By word of mouth, news circulated from dinner time until we were released for the day. A few of us took frisbees and plates to make bases, and I grabbed the whiffle ball bat and balls from the trunk. Soon, fifteen to twenty people had gathered for the first ever licensing school whiffleball game. Men and women, young and old, the crowd was diverse – and a group of strangers began the gradual move toward relationship, toward finding friends. By the third night, the crowd was in the forties (we had spectators, too!) and groups were making plans for other outings – to the putt-putt course, to play pool, to go to a film, and the licensing school leaders were asking us to make announcements about what each night’s options for post-course work activities were. (A friend calls it “The Great Whiffle Ball Miracle”.)
I was reminded of this when I saw the ESPN story that Trevor Bauer is organizing a sandlot whiffle ball game with a few friends to raise money for MLB workers who are out of work during the coronavirus. Bauer is still practicing social distancing – but he’s also taking a frustrating situation and making it better, while also helping a bunch of other people, too.
I wonder what it would look like if we approached our present situations with a different spin. What would happen if we saw floodlights and open space as a chance for something more? What could we do with what we “have in the trunk” that would change our attitude, our situation, or someone else’s right now?
Maybe it’s not time for whiffle ball – but who knows what opportunities are waiting just outside of our line of sight?
I John 4:17-18 (The Message)
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.