In Why Time Begins on Opening Day, sportswriter Thomas Boswell offers a "preliminary" Ten Commandments of the Dugout:
- Judge slowly.
- Assume everyone is trying reasonably hard.
- Physical errors, even the most grotesque, should be forgiven.
- Conversely, mental errors are judged as harshly as physical errors are ignored.
- Pay more attention to the mundane than the spectacular.
- Pay more attention to the theory of the game than the outcome of the game. Don't let your evaluations be too swayed by the final score.
- Players always know best how they are playing.
- Stay ahead of the action, not behind it or even neck and neck with it.
During the 2014 major league baseball season (this includes the post season, even if the Indians do not make the playoffs), I will share some reflections on Boswell's commandments. Please share your comments and thoughts, as well as ideas on additional commandments that apply to baseball and our spiritual lives. Perhaps by the World Series we can fill up Boswell's tablets!
Today let's consider Boswell's first commandment:
Judge slowly. ... No, more slowly than that. You have to "see a player hot, cold, and in between before you can put the whole package together." Sometimes an entire season is not long enough.
There was a time when I half-expected that sometime after Easter I would be handed a report card evaluating my Lenten deportment and performance. In my mind, it would resemble an elementary school report card with two types of evaluation: one grade awarded for actual achievement and another for effort. Yes, the dreaded effort grade. No grading curve has ever saved a slacker from a low effort mark.
Whether God is evaluating one of my beloved Cleveland Indians or anyone's Lenten 2014 on base percentage, God judges slowly. God's "long haul" covers more seasons than we can even imagine. God judges in God's time: exponentially slower than we judge ourselves and others. While God may have created the curveball, God doesn't grade on the curve. God could care less about how we compare to others. Intention, the effort grade, is what grabs God's attention. Thus, I believe God applauds pop ups and dropped balls provided we are hustling as well as wild pitches and strike outs if we are doing the best we can with all the gifts God has given us. We may want to hide in the dugout, but God and the angels cheer relentlessly until we come back out on the field to try again.
As Lent draws to a close, help us merciful God to leave the judging to You so that we can focus with open hearts and minds on the next season, the next game, the next pitch. Amen.