Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Praying with a World Series Image

I must have watched the final out and following moments from Game 7 of the 2014 World Series 100 times. After robust cheers, celebratory pictures and a victory libation, I walked home holding two things, neither of which weigh anything. Sounds like some sort of riddle—but it's not. No, I carried with me two images. These two pictures were mesmerizing; I couldn't stop hitting the internal rewind button in my mind. And when that happens, I feel called to prayer.

The spiritual life demands that we pay attention to feelings, desires, whisperings, opportunities and more. When something captivates me, I bring it to prayer. Why am I drawn to x? What is it about "y" that it is staying with me? And in one of my favorite spiritual disciplines, when an image speaks to me—when I keep replaying it in my mind, I ask myself why it is speaking to me. I raise it to God in my prayer.

The first image became a popular one. So popular that is graced the front page of the San Francisco Examiner, in addition to many others. It features Buster Posey hugging Madison Bumgarner after the final out. They ran toward one another and embraced in a typical "bro hug"—the kind where strong arms interlock and beat on the back of the other man. I have heard that Bumgarner said, "I love you," the same words that many of us have also said to Buster (without him knowing it). But what was unique about this embrace is again, what I took to my prayer.

Before Posey lets go of Bumgarner, I noticed that he went back in for a second hug. It feels more intimate than the first. It's a near cuddle. He simply buries his face in Bumgarner's chest. I love it.

I repeatedly asked myself why I love this moment as much as I do. Fortunately, a friend caught sight of what I did and said "that gesture said to me that Buster found relief. He finally had someone he knew could shoulder the burden. That hug was a 'thank you' from a much deeper place. It's I trust you, I love you."

I knew he was right. Bumgarner's epic performance is not possible without Posey behind the plate. The catcher seldom gets credit for how they frame the pitcher's craft. Buster Posey caught all 18 innings of NLDS Game 2 in Washington DC not to mention the rest of the entire series. No complaints, no fan fare. One of the Giants announcer's said that his low batting average in the Series may have to do with the fact that he caught what became the longest baseball game in postseason history. Well...we'll never know because Posey won't offer an excuses. 

Above and beyond baseball, Posey has found in Bumgarner something I think we all want from a spouse or partner, a close friend and our God. We want a source of relief, someone who can shoulder the burden and tell us we are loved. In my realization, I thanked God for those people who have had the strength and ability to be that person for me.

The second image is as different as are the players involved: Hunter Pence and Michael Morse engage in their love fest. Giants fans have long teased these two high-intensity athletes about their "bromance." In short, these teammates have a deep respect and admiration for one another. Furthermore, they have good chemistry. This photo reveals the gift that a new-found friend, companion and teammate can be, especially when you accomplish something great together.

This past fall a new coach joined the girls cross country staff who surprised me with joy. In some ways, we aren't that much alike. She's 15 years and inches my junior, she loves to confront girls about dress code and attitude. But we make each other laugh, we work hard and believe that together we can make a difference in the culture of the team, the sport and the lives of our athletes. 

Although we did not experience the elation of Pence & Morse upon their victory, in this image I am reminded of those people I have worked with that have become friends. Men and women who I delight in. People who make it worth so much more. Thank you Lord for the gift of friendship. 

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