Meatheads and Hosses
40 degrees here in Nashville tonight and my brothers and I were playing softball. Pretty chilly. We played two games tonight in the tournament. We won the first. In the second game, we played a team we lost to by 1 run in the regular season. The team we played is called Social Pipeline. They’re a cool group. I was thinking during the game how easily our judgments of people are formed and switched. When you look at a lot of the guys on the team, they’re cut. Their the ones Under Armour was made for. Guys built like me don’t exactly fill that stuff out.
Anyway, earlier in the season, seeing these guys for the first time, I thought, “What a bunch of meatheads.” Turns out the team is a ton of fun to play. It’s not like we’re joking around all game but a laugh here and a, “Nice hit” there can totally change your opinion about someone. So now these meatheads are just hosses (no, hot hoses…hosses…they’re big and can hit the ball far). A meathead is someone who is 1. bigger than you and 2. stupid and/or 3. drinks protein shakes at every meal and calls it muscle milk and/or 4. someone you have animosity toward, probably for one or more reasons above. A hoss is someone who is 1. bigger than you and 2. talented. There is a difference! Well, the team we played has a bunch of hosses – guys who can hit the ball very hard and very far. The first game against us, they hit 4 home runs farther than anything I’ve seen in a while.
From the time our first game began, I kept having this thought over and over again (I’m not telling you what it is yet). I pitch for our team so every few pitches I would have this thought. And it’s strange because every once in a while during the season, I think this thought, but not so many times in one night. Well, the first game ended and nothing became of my thought. Then we came to the 3rd inning of game 2. One of their hosses came to the plate. I had the thought again. I pitched the first ball. It was perfect. And he just watched it. Strike. “Weird,” I thought. “Why didn’t he bomb that thing?” Pitch 2. The batter swings…
I’ve played baseball/softball for a long time. I played outfield in baseball and I pitch in sotball. When a ball gets hit, there is only one trajectory that’s difficult to judge. This guy hit it. “He hit the ball,” I instantly thought. “Why does it seem to be moving so slow?” My reflexes kicked in. “Because he just hit a line drive at you, dummy!” (My reflexes talk to me.) In all the time I’ve played, I think I’ve only had one other ball hit so hard at me. Line drives are so tough to judge because there is no frame of reference by which you can judge its speed. You just know its direction (at you).
Is this just some melodramatic, not-so-interesting storytelling exercise? No. See, this guy hit a screaming line drive right at my head. That recurring thought I was having? All night long up until that point, I had been thinking, “You’re going to get hit in the head tonight.” I got my glove up and the ball didn’t quite hit in the webbing. Actually, for those keeping score at home, it hit me mostly in the first metacarpal (the index finger bone just below your actual finger digit). Stung like a beast. There were a bunch of people waiting to play the next game who were watching. I heard a collective gasp. The batter said, “Oh, sh!t” and came running out to see if I was ok. I always feel bad for batters when they hit a ball right back up the middle at me. They don’t intend to do it – it’s just part of the game. We slapped five (the bro five) and I said, “Ain’t no thing, man!”
But that’s just it. It WAS a thing to me. See, I’m scared to die.
Even though I’m a Jesus follower, I’m still scared to die. “What if that ball HAD hit me in the head?” Truthfully, I may not have died, but I’ve got to think it would have cracked my skull. And I mentioned this is the only the 2nd hardest hit ball. Last year, one of my friends hit a ball just like that. I got my glove up a split second before the ball hit my heart. Back then, I remember thinking about how trauma to the heart (via ribs) can cause it to beat irregularly or stop beating altogether.
On December 19, I’ll probably catch a flight back to Michigan. I’ll go and hang out with my family and eat good food and tell good stories and laugh a lot. And there’s no doubt in my mind I’m going home. It doesn’t scare me. It’s home.
So if, as a Christian, heaven is my true home, what does it mean if I’m scared to die? Does it mean I am UNSURE of what Jesus actually did on the Cross? I’m inclined to think, “I’m just a human. It’s normal to be scared of all that. I’ve been home hundreds of times. I’ve never been to heaven.” Ah, but that misses the essence of faith. The classic Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being SURE of what we hope for and CERTAIN of what we do not see” (emphasis mine). The author goes on to talk about all the people in the Old Testament who just trusted God. They took Him at His word.
I’m afraid to die. That’s just the way my life is right now. Yes, this sometimes makes me wonder if I’m a Christian at all (I think I am, by the way – according to the gospel interpretation commonly accepted in evangelical circles, I’m a Christian). And, yes, some people reading this might feel sorry for me. But I’m beginning to be ok with all these things. Don’t get me wrong. There would be no greater Christmas present (or Tomorrow present) than understanding I really AM forgiven and I really AM going to heaven when I die.
In chapter 12, Hebrews says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Is it possible that all the frustration and all the questions and all the doubt in our lives is producing a “harvest of righteousness and peace”? If God lets us wrestle with these questions (which can be painful), does that mean He’s disciplining us in some way? I don’t know. Maybe. Here’s what I wrote to my friend, Annie, today: “I wonder if people who always say life is awesome are just deluded or trying to delude others. Deceived or deceivers? And if they legitimately live on Easy Street, are we so sure we’d want to be there, too? See, I wouldn’t. And that’s interesting to me. A life on Easy Street scares the junk out of me.”
And THAT is why I don’t mind wrestling through the fact that I’m afraid to die. Should I be afraid? I don’t know. I don’t think so. But I am. And this is another Worm of mine – something it scares me to admit. My name is Andy. I’m afraid to die. And Jesus is going to help me not be that way anymore. I trust His Word in Hebrews. I trust Him.