In the middle of the first week of the Olympics, we take our eldest to a special event for her baseball team, an opportunity to warm up with the local minor league baseball team. Amid discussions about parents who push young children into athletics far too young and tailor their children's dreams to their own passions, I still can't help but feel a surge of happiness as I watch my daughter catch and throw with the same joy and prowess I enjoyed as a young girl on the mowed green of the fields of my youth.
I might have introduced her to ball, but it's hers now. I've passed the torch, and she has grown to love it every bit - and perhaps even more so - as much as I ever did. It was only that first year, crippled by shyness, that was difficult. Now it's easy as apple pie, and just as sweet.
What is it about competition, physical contests, teamwork, that lights us up and drives us to higher heights, I wonder? What about sports is indelibly tied to our patriotism, nationalism, pride, and yet personal endeavor and achievement?
Perhaps it is as simple as this: it is one of the few places left where ceremony is ubiquitous and unencumbered in a society tossed to the winds of change. It's done the same across the country at ball parks from Little League to the Major Leagues from spring training to the golden bats of September: warm-ups, national anthem, 9 innings of contest, hot dogs and beer, sunflower seeds and dirty kids, sunset and mosquitos in the night lights. In an era where even church is different in a thousand different sanctuaries across the city every Sunday morning, it is one of the last predictable ceremonies of our time, this world of athletic competition. Once you're initiated into the traditions of it, you can play your whole life without ever giving thought to the order of events ever again.
There is a kind of slow worship to training your body in the calculated movements of a sport. A liturgy to the ceremony of the game. Undertaken with the understanding that our gifts are from Him and ultimately for the glory of God, it can truly be an act of true homage.
...do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (I Corinthians 6:19-20)