First: Stephen Strasburg is not God, nor is he a god. That’s not what I’m saying. For more on this, see Bill Murray
But back to Strasburg. His first night of pitching for the Nationals was heaven. My (non-students-of-the-game) friends have asked me, with puzzled expressions, why I keep talking about it and just what all the excitement was about.
It was like a fine glass of wine. Or a great meal, where each bite is just wonderful. You take that first taste and oh my goodness it is good. And then you look around and everyone else is thinking the same thing, you can see it from their faces. And it builds. As the meal progresses, it gets better and better, each course adding to what has already been presented. By the dessert course, you know you have been part of something truly remarkable, and the sense of pleasure and joy around the table is almost palpable.
That’s what it was like at the game Tuesday night. For baseball fans, he threw 14 strikeouts in seven innings, and struck out the last seven batters in a row. He had complete control of his fastball, consistently pitching in the 99 mph range, and was not afraid to brush back the aggressive hitters. He mixed it up occasionally with a curve ball that completely shut down the other side.
But the point here is more than baseball. The point is that in any field of endeavor, when someone truly excels, everyone benefits. Everyone can take pleasure in the truly excellent. And it’s more than pleasure, more even than joy; it’s hope. Anytime anyone is reaching their particular god-given potential, it can bring hope to all of us.
It can bring hope. It can also bring jealousy, envy, and strife. Too often, instead of admiration for another person, what’s in the human heart is the desire to make it our own. We are unable to see ourselves as distinct persons - to stay grounded in our own goals – and instead somehow want what another person has. What happened Tuesday night at the ball field was that all of us (over 40,000 of us) were enjoying his performance without thinking about doing it ourselves. It was absolutely electric – the atmosphere in the stadium was charged with excitement and wonder at what this kid could do – and the excitement was contagious.
I wonder if this is what heaven is going to be like. Heaven is like an enormous stadium with each of us pitching our best, for all the world to see and enjoy? That’s a stretch. But try this: in heaven, perhaps, all of us will reach our god-given potential, and the beauty of God will radiate through us. In heaven, perhaps, all of us will love, admire, and even enjoy one another, ungrudgingly, for each of us will also appear in the light of God’s glory. But this is just idle speculation. The real trick is living now as though we were in heaven.
A prayer… Lord who loves us all, let me spread the atmosphere of heaven on earth, recognizing the enormous potential and beauty in all I see while remembering the particular goals you have called me to.