Monday, May 14, 2007

Holy Anger

Lately I've been playing softball with our church softball team in our local church softball league. To say the least, I've had fun!!! It's really good every now and then to let the competitive juices flow and to work-out my muscles in such a way that I'm sore the next day and can remember that I'm fully alive.

Last week, we played a team that was superior to our own. In the first inning, this relentless group of Baptist sluggers mercilessly racked up eleven runs. The rest of the game consisted of more of the same. After three innings of watching their team members round the bases and score, my blood began to boil. I wanted our team to at least be competitive, but the Baptists made beating us look fun and easy.

Then it happened. While playing in the field at second base, a ball was popped high up in the air behind me. I was determined to catch it. I ran toward middle right field looking over my shoulder, adjusting to the flight of ball. Nothing was going to stop me from catching that ball. So as the ball shifted directions with the wind, I changed my own trajectory and dove toward where the ball would be landing.

Now I wish I could tell you that I caught that ball, but I didn't! No, the ball hit the end of my glove and bounced to the ground. I immediately knew that I had a problem. Scraping myself off the ground I felt a sharp pain in my upper left ribcage. That sharp pain is still piercing me with every wrong move one week later.

Back to the ballgame....the anger that had been at boiling point before my dropped ball was now at volcanic explosion level. Being the preacher that I am, I gritted my teeth and kept playing without expressing my displeasure to my teammates or to my opponents. Then the bad got worse. Two bad calls by the umpires put an already lost cause so far out of reach that it was an utter impossibility to come back in our final at-bat.

I went home that night with a chip on my shoulder. "You're only out there to have fun, you know, " is what I kept telling myself. "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game" were words from past coaches that surfaced as I fought against my anger. But I wasn't buying it. Why did I want to win so bad? Why did getting beat in a softball game that meant "nothing" sting so severely? Why had I let myself get so angry?

Maybe, just maybe, my anger has nothing to do with losing a softball game. Maybe the softball game was only the event that unleashed what was buried beneath. If I'm honest with myself, I might admit that my anger from losing the game came from my anger about the inequities of life. Perhaps I need a good softball game every now and then to remind me that there are some things worth getting angry about.

There is much in our world today we need to be angry about...starving people who go ignored, those dying of diseases that could be cured, greed in the face of rampant need, leaders bent on power and domination instead of the welfare of those they lead, laziness (my own included) when so much needs to be done....just to name a few. If it takes a good softball game to remind me that I need to be more serious in combating the evils of this world, then put me on the field, coach, I'm ready to play!

Prayer: Gracious Lord, may the pain in my rib and every pain in life remind me of those who cries for help go unheard.