Thursday, July 5, 2012

R. A. Dickey and Kairos

This was my newsletter article for our July/August newsletter--a taste of summer!

I fell in with a group of baseball fans while in seminary—and we were in seminary 1999-2002, so the Yankees were in the World Series all three years we were at GTS, with the Yankees-Mets subway series being the clear highlight in 2000. 

My comically theological classmates taught me that baseball, unlike most other sports is played according to kairos, God’s time, rather than chronos, human time. The concepts of chronos and kairos are not necessarily biblical, but the idea is that chronos is the time according to the clock—it is dependable, orderly, and routine. Kairos is God’s time—the time in which “a thousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone,” where a single moment can seem to last forever, and where years can pass in the blink of an eye. Football, basketball, and even my beloved soccer are all played according to the clock—when the last second ticks off and the whistle blows, the game ends. Baseball (and tennis, for those who are watching Wimbledon right now) take as long as they need—27 outs for each side, regardless of how much time goes by. The game is not limited by chronos, but proceeds according to kairos—however long it takes to finish the game, even if it means extra innings, is the length of the game.

I inherited a love of watching baseball from my classmates—and with my confidence that God always loves the underdog, and an affinity for National League teams and rules, I became a Mets fan.

Two years ago, I became intrigued by the story of a new pitcher for the Mets: R.A. Dickey. He was my age (ancient for baseball!) and had an intriguing story: he’d floated around mostly in the minor leagues for 12 years, and was finally getting his big break. And he was a knuckleball pitcher—the only one in baseball today.   Here was the ultimate underdog on the team of underdogs—how could I not cheer for him to finally make it? 

Last season he played well, and then I followed his blog as he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro over the summer to bring attention to the victims of human trafficking. The Mets refused to guarantee his contract if he was injured on the climb, but he went anyway—a risky move that warmed my heart: could there really be professional athletes who believed that caring for others was more important than fame and fortune?

Dickey’s successes this year are well documented in the newspapers—he has more wins than any other pitcher in the Major Leagues this year, pitched two consecutive one-hitters, and is confounding batters every time he pitches with his unpredictable knuckleball.

But I had no idea of the full depth of his story until I read his recently published memoir, Wherever I Wind Up: my Quest for Truth, Authenticity, and the Perfect Knuckleball. A childhood of poverty and abuse, being rescued through athletics, a scholarship to private school, and falling in love with his childhood sweetheart; getting drafted out of college with an $800,000 signing bonus only to have it all vanish when a medical exam discovered that he was missing a crucial ligament in his elbow.  His confidence shattered, it took 12 years of personal and professional struggles before he not only had the right pitching, but the right mindset and spiritual support to handle the pressure of the big leagues. 

And it all turned around in 2007 after a metaphorical baptism when he attempted to swim across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa and failed utterly, nearly drowning. He writes, “When I was weeping underwater in the big brown currents of the longest river in North America, I was sure my time was over. God, it turned out, had other ideas, giving me a chance to see if a man who had spent a lifetime running away from the present could possibly find a way to embrace it.”

Living in God’s time, living in kairos, is not about running away from our present, it is about fully embracing it. This summer as we hopefully find time to get away, to recreate ourselves and slow down, I pray that we will remember that God’s promises to us are not all about the future, but also about living fully in each moment that we are given.

And if you are so inclined, make one of those moments be Epiphany’s night at the Brooklyn Cyclones on August  10!

No comments:

Post a Comment