Oct. 15, 1988. Every Dodger fan can look at this picture, hear that date, and know exactly where they were (or groan, and say “1988? Again?”). It was both one of the greatest moments in Dodgers (and baseball) history, and the last time the Dodgers actually won the World Series.
It was only Game 1, but the A’s were heavy favorites, especially with the NL MVP Kirk Gibson too injured to play. When Jose Canseco hit a grand slam in the 2nd inning, it seemed like the series was over already. But then, with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, against one of the greatest closers in history, Kirk Gibson, who could barely hobble up to the plate, hit one of the great home runs of all time.
I was 8 years old, sitting on my Dad’s lap at my friend Ryan McCaffery’s house (who were rooting for the A’s, by the way). When Gibson hit that ball, my Dad jumped to his feet, sending me flying (at least in my memory). I’ve been a baseball fan ever since.
There is something about fathers and sons and baseball. The movie City Slickers nails it when Phil says, “When I was about 18 and my Dad and I couldn’t communicate about anything at all, we could still talk about baseball. That was real.” And sure enough, here 32 years later, when I talk to my Dad on the phone, the conversation invariably includes baseball. Yes, he’s gone to being a Cleveland fan, and all the players he knew are long since retired, but there’s something about the common language of baseball that rings universal.
It’s the funny thing about my relationship with my Dad. In many ways, we had the all-American father-son relationship – he coached my sports teams, taught me to play catch, drove me to school each day in High School, modeled what was expected of “a man.” But he was (and is) also human. He has his faults and makes mistakes, as do we all. I know the time comes in a child’s development when they realize their parents are not perfect, and at some point need to forgive them for that, and I think I have.
However, the older I get, and as I attempt to let the Holy Spirit transform me more and more, I start to recognize patterns in my dad, ones that I see in his dad, and in me. For one reason or another, be it ‘nature or nurture,’ there are certain traits that are passed on almost unconsciously. For our family, it seemed to be our shifting passions. My grandfather would get all worked up about one idea, devote all his time and effort to it, then get distracted and start something else. My father, who started by opening a hardware store, became a salesman, a real estate agent, before opening up a wine store.
Now it could be a symptom of today’s culture that most of us have 3 or 4 careers (at least), but I noticed these tendencies in myself. I worked at Disney out of college and was passionate as anything about that. Then I started a financial service business, which again, I was passionate about. I was a travel agent, refurbisher, mail deliverer, before finally a Youth Pastor. If you ask my family, it seems like this is another passion that will eventually be replaced by the next thing to come along.
To be honest, that scared the heck out of me. Was this whole Christian thing just a fad? Just the latest thing to be excited about? I didn’t grow up going to church, and I knew very few people who did growing up, so all things being equal, they could have had a point. But if this was just a fad, then all this talk about Truth and Light was just that, talk.
The conversation shifted the night before Easter 2006. Our church was having a prayer vigil for our Easter service, and I ran into Mike, one of the new-faith team members I had first spoken to after becoming a believer. I confessed these concerns, and he talked about breaking patterns – first recognizing these patterns and habits that we are part of, and then choosing to change them. As much as I may be like my father or grandfather, I am not them, nor do I have to choose the same paths they’ve chosen.
Paul tells the Galatians “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24). Not only are those passions and desires inside me ‘crucified’ with Christ so they no longer define me, but they also become subject to Him. Instead of these trends being flighty or fleeting, I can see how He can use each one of my experiences to equip me for the tasks He has for me now. And my passionate and shifting nature fits well with student ministries, as students and student culture are constantly shifting.
Ultimately, if Christ is who He says He is, He is the game-changer. He is the one that changes flighty people into rocks, change hearts, and change destinations. And resting in that firm knowledge replaces the insecurity with confidence, the question with answers, the worry with Hope.