The World Serious

Watching Cleveland in the playoffs is a huge memory jolt. In a story I’ve recorded here previously, my ten year old son and me had the privilege of attending a World Series game there in 1997.

It was a gift from Major League Baseball – a prize I won when my wife entered me into a contest while we attended an Arizona Fall League game in Scottsdale. All I had to do was throw a strike between innings of a game. It took me two tries, but I did it, and three days later we boarded a plane for Cleveland.

As you might imagine, it was the experience of a lifetime. Die-hard fans may recall that it was the coldest World Series game in history, even boasting a light skiff of snow. Despite the last-minute purchase of a blanket in Cleveland, we were embarrassingly unprepared for the cold weather. The kind gentleman next to us bought my son a cup of hot chocolate.

Cleveland fans went home happy with a convincing victory. Bryan Anderson and Matt Williams, soon to join the fledgling Diamondbacks franchise, both played prominent roles in the game.

My son and I had a great time on that trip. As you might imagine, we experienced it somewhat differently from one another. For him, there were no worries, only the wonder and joy of attending the biggest game of the year with his Dad. Everything caught his attention: falling snowflakes, roaring crowd, thrilling ballgame, cool train rides, smoky hot chocolate – you name it, he enjoyed it.

For me, although I enjoyed the experience immensely, there was an added level of pressure about which he had no clue. I had been given very little instruction by Major League Baseball. I was to take a train to the team hotel, ask for tickets, get to the ballpark, and find my way to a different hotel following the game.

A flood questions formed the background noise to my experience. “Where do I go to find tickets at the hotel? What if my name is not listed? How will we get to the ballpark from there? How will I find the hotel where we are staying ? We’re going to freeze! Where can I find a blanket?”

I was extremely careful to keep these issues out of my son’s purview. He was a ten year old kid going to Cleveland to watch a World Series game with his dad. Why should he fret? His dad was right next to him. He’d take care of things.

In the ten years since that memorable trip, I have reflected about it as a parable for my own relationship with God. All too often I behave more like the father than the son as I navigate my way through life. My way is filled with difficult decisions, uncertain futures, complicated connections. What if I make a bad decision? How will I fix things when I do?

How much better it would be if I remembered that I am the son, not the father. My Father will keep me out of harm’s way. He’ll make sure I get to where I need to be. If I make a mistake, he’ll work things out. As long as I am with him, why worry?

One day Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” I wonder what kind of answer they were expecting. Maybe they thought one of them would be commended for their faith. Or perhaps there was a well-known teacher or holy man or historical figure that had caught their fancy. Who knows what they thought?

Imagine their surprise when, instead, Jesus did this: He called a little child and had him stand among them. (Jesus had a flair for the dramatic.) “Whoever humbles himself like this child,” he said, “is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4).