Spring training has only just begun, but already I can tell that my favorite baseball team is not going to make it to the World Series. (I’m too embarrassed to mention the team by name.) Even so, thanks to the example set by last year’s Chicago Cubs, I have a much better idea as to what it will take for my boys to (one day, some day) win it all. I also feel like we were given an object lesson in what it takes for ordinary Joes like me to overcome the myriad and largely non sports-related obstacles in life that seem to be standing in our way.
Aside from their solid pitching, spectacular fielding, and (once they got around to it) timely hitting, there were three aspects of the Cubs’ game that, for me at least, stood out more than all others due to their profoundly spiritual underpinnings and wide-ranging application to daily life.
First and foremost was their ability to discern the foolishness of the so-called Curse of the Billy Goat – not by avoiding the topic but by confronting it head on and unmasking its complete lack of substance. “I’ve told the guys we have to talk about it, because you can’t stick it in the back corner of a dark room and never acknowledge it,” said Cubs pitching ace Jon Lester in an interview with The New York Times. “That’s how bad things creep in.”
Second was the team’s many outward expressions of what a favorite religious thinker refers to as “the kingdom of heaven… within,” including such qualities of thought as “unselfishness, goodness, mercy,” and so on. It’s one thing to know that you have what it takes to succeed; quite another to convert this instinct into actions that are at once practical, beneficial, and morally uplifting.
And finally, there was the Cubs’ remarkable perseverance, recovering from a potentially demoralizing three games to one deficit to triumph over the Cleveland Indians in a thrilling 10-inning, nearly four-and-a-half hour Game 7. “Let us not be weary in well doing,” said the apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians, “for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Or, as Cubs manager Joe Maddon once put it, “Never let the pressure exceed the pleasure.”
Very few will ever have the opportunity to utilize these skills as a Major League ballplayer. What is far more likely, however, is that most of us have already discovered, to a greater or lesser extent, the impact these skills can have on our mental and physical well-being, our relationships with others, and our overall quality of life.
Some years ago a good friend of mine found this to be true when she suddenly lost her ability to walk. “My back was extremely painful, and I lost the use of my bodily functions,” she wrote in an account published in The Christian Science Journal. “Many nights I sat up all night because lying down seemed impossible.”
Despite her condition, not once did she feel like she was doomed, that what she was facing was incurable, or – perhaps like so many long-suffering Cubs fans over the years – that she had somehow been cursed. “I prayed to realize that God loves me, that God and I coexist, and that I am entirely spiritual,” she wrote, “in fact, that the truth of my being is that I reflect only God, divine Mind.”
Was this just a matter of wishful thinking? Hardly. According to my friend, it was more a matter of accepting and embracing what she had learned through her study of the Bible of her innate and enduring ability to express what God – divine Mind, divine Love – had given her to express, including unhampered mobility.
The healing that eventually took place didn’t happen all at once. It took perseverance. After about three months, however, my friend, who had been working as a teacher at the time, was completely back to normal, “back in the classroom, back to swimming laps as usual.”
For me the common thread between what she experienced and the Cubs’ historic victory is not so much about what it takes to overcome an apparently daunting challenge – the discernment, the moral fortitude, and the perseverance – as it is who and what gives us the ability to do so. The divine Mind my friend speaks about isn’t simply telling us what to do but is also guiding us in how to do it, and encouraging us to do so; ultimately, making winners of us all.