Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Jeremy Affeldt: Sometimes Seeing Is Not Believing, Something Else is....

I'm not joking when I share that my days and weeks are punctuated by remembering a simple truth: the San Francisco Giants are World Series Champions. I will be chugging through my day and something will bring me to recall their feat; I can't help but smile when I do. I try to imagine how it must feel to the men (and women) who truly made it happen. Jeremy Affeldt, a devout Christian has given a glimpse, through a testimony of faith. It wasn't what I was expecting, but then again neither was a third World Series title in 5 years isn't either. In Understanding a World Series Victory he writes:
"Suppose I knew ahead of time that the Giants were going to win the World Series this year. Suppose God came to me in a dream and said, "Jeremy, here's what's going to happen. The Giants will win the Wild Card game. You'll go on to win the Division Series against the Nationals in four games, and then you'll win the NL Championship Series against the Cardinals in five games. Then you'll play the Kansas City Royals in the World Series, and it will take seven games, but the Giants will win. And Jeremy, you will be the winning pitcher in Game 7!" 
I wish! If God had done that, I would have walked out on that mound without a care in the world. I wouldn't have feared any of the teams we faced. I wouldn't have feared any of the batters I faced. I wouldn't have feared any situation. I wouldn't have been nervous. I would not have doubted. I wouldn't have felt the slightest need to take control. I would have already known the outcome! And I would have just let it happen.
Obviously, it wasn't like that at all. But in life, it kind of is! 
Think about it. Jesus died for us, and in shedding His blood for us, saved us. Then He resurrected, giving us the promise of eternal life. So Jesus says, "I've already won. It's finished. You are a part of me now. You are a part of my kingdom, and a part of my family. We are nothing but love and grace. That's who we are!" 
Even with victory declared, the story still has to play out. There are people out there that don't yet understand. As soon as they accept Jesus and become adopted into His family, they will share in the victory. 
But we share in the victory now. Because Jesus has won, we have won. We can play the game of life, joyful and worry-free, knowing that we have already won. 
I still get weak at times. Sometimes I get fearful, or nervous, or doubtful. I still try to control other people. I get weak sometimes because I am still a man of flesh. But the more I understand that Jesus has won, the calmer I become. I don't have to get angry at someone if they don't agree with me when I talk about Jesus. I don't have to try to control people who are angry or upset. That is not my play. My play is love. A lot of people have been wounded by the church, and when they express their anger and hurt to me, my play is to love on them. I share the truth. I tell them that Jesus loves them. But I'm not worried about how they might react to that truth. They can get mad; that's okay. I can just love. Love has already won."
I find some of his words more confusing than the message on a t-shirt I saw. It reads "Legalize Love." I didn't know it needed to be (and from what I could tell the shirt wasn't trying to promote marriage equality...who knows). 

Affeldt, who earned the "win" for Game 7 of the series says "My Play is Love" and that "My play is to love on them." He adds, "Love has already won." What might this mean?

The chapter "Risen" in "Jesus: A Pilgrimage" by James Martin gave me some insight. Martin writes, "According to the Gospel of John, early on the first day of the week Mary Magdelene comes to the tomb, alone, and sees that the stone has been removed. She races to see Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. Confused, Mary tells Peter that the body is gone. Peter and the other disciple race for the tomb."

"Mary lingers outside of the tomb, weeping. She sees Jesus, but fails to recognize him."

"Not until Jesus speaks her name does Mary know him. At first, Mary couldn't recognize him, but she knew his distinctive voice with the Nazarean accent—the voice that called her into wholeness when it expelled whatever demons troubled her, the voice that welcomed her into his circle of friends, the voice that told her she was valued in the eyes of God, the voice that answered her questions, the voice that laughed over a meal, the voice that counseled her near the end of his earthly life, the voice that cried out in pain from the cross.  Mary knew that voice because it was a voice that had spoken to her in love. Then she recognized who it was . Because sometimes seeing is not believing. Loving is."

Suppose Mary and the disciples knew ahead of time that Christ would rise from the dead. Suppose God came to Mary in a dream and said, "Mary, here's what's going to happen. You will go to Jesus' tomb and he won't be there. You will hear his voice and at first you won't recognize him!" Life just doesn't work that way—does it. Thanks be to God for the gift of faith and for love, a theological virtue.
One of my favorite paintings: Peter and John Running to the Tomb by Eugene Burnand.
They go after Mary tells them the news
We love because God loved us first; God's love in me allows me to love others. Sometimes, that can be tremendously hard. Real love flows from the grace of God. I would not want to live in a world without love—it would be a cold, dark place. Rather, we are called to build the Kingdom of God. When we love others, not only do we help build the Kingdom, we help others to see for themselves who God is and where God is.

For Affeldt, loving Christ, loving the sport of baseball—a place where he can showcase and test his gifts and talents, and loving his teammates has allowed him to believe in who he is, what he is called to do and all that God wants him to be. Winning (or losing) doesn't validate the belief, loving the process, loving the work required to get there does. 

Believing in someone is one of the most important things we can do. Mentors, teachers, parents, and friends are but a few examples of those who believe in us. I now understand why—they love us. 

So let your play be love. Why? It has already won. It's worth believing!

Photo Credits
Peter and John
Stir a Movement

WS Win Understanding a World Series Victory

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