Batting Clean-Up

Batting Clean-Up October 14, 2013

Guest Post by the Rev. Courtney Richards

When looking for a concise, well-researched, thoughtfully cultivated, reviewed, evaluated, and measuredly logical source of information, one can do no better than Wikipedia.

(One can do far better than Wikipedia.)

As a recently connected but quickly enthralled reader of Erin’s work (and drawn to common orbit along a remarkably strong ‘friend of’ force field), I was … beyond ‘flattered,’ really; what’s the word for about six levels past that? … when she asked to include me in the guest list – guest bloggers, that is – during her leave of absence from Irreverin, as she transitions to her new life-and-ministry-setting.

(Obviously my flair for excessive punctuation and complex sentence structure was a selling point.)

When Erin invited us and assigned response/publish dates, I was at the end of the list. Which made me think of and refer to myself as the cleanup hitter. And once the guest posts got started, it became more and more evident …

“… know God’s voice well enough {to} sense when the voice we hear is the Pharisee in us and when it is in Jesus in us.” (Cristen Wathen)

“… loving and compassionate hearts who made room at the table for people very different from us and went searching for tables beyond their own that needed food.” (Sarah Stewart Holland)

“So maybe we should just let Jesus do the talking … my job is not to decide which Jesus my congregation gets to see. My job is simply to open the door and make the introduction.” (Kory Wilcoxson)

“If you really want to know more about a family’s adoption story, just ask them.” (Kara Foster)

 “’This is where he lays his head now. He is not there, wherever ‘there’ is or was or might’ve been.’” (Brandon Gilvin)

 “…the outcome doesn’t matter nearly so much as the playing of the thing.” (Kent Somers)

… it became more and more evident that we were truly staring down some serious front-of-the-lineup batters, doing the hard work at the top of the order.

A clean-up hitter’s main work is to be sure those ahead of you make it around. So, with thanks to the guest bloggers, a link to each of their works, there’s time to welcome Erin back, wave to the folks in the upper decks, and be on my way.

And THEN it clicked. Um. The clean-up hitter, technically 4th in the order (but who’s coun … okay they’re counting), is ‘almost always one of the best hitters on the team, often the one with the most power. Baseball managers tend to place hitters who are most likely to reach base ahead of the clean-up man, so that the fourth batter can “clean” the bases by driving these baserunners home to score runs.’  Nooooo no no no no NO. Not what I signed on for! Too. Much. Pressure.

AND THEN I discovered  that not only did ‘50s major league manager Bobby Bragan have the idea to put the best hitter first and then ‘the remainder of his lineup in descending batting average order’ … in the years since, a computer simulation has actually calculated the mathematical superiority of ‘Bragan’s brainstorm’. So THAT means that the end of the order is usually the slowest baserunner on a team. (Why yes, this IS now sounding familiar. Thanks for asking.)

But here’s the saving grace – for the boys of summer and for the metaphor of the day: When playing the role at its best, the batters at the end of the order do whatever they can to outlast the pitcher and get on base … because then the top of the order comes back to the plate. (Hellooooo out there Irreverin!)

It’s about everyone doing their part and making it work.

Which seems like such an obvious thing to say, right? Why even write it? Hasn’t it been said and done? We’re all unique – snowflakes, raindrops, petals of flowers, sunsets. (Whatever.) We’re all needed, we all matter, we’re all important – parts of the (b/B)ody, members of the team, threads in the tapestry, wheels in the machine.

And yet.

You don’t think like I do. You’re an idiot and despicable and should be fired/jailed/maligned/killed.

I know exactly how I think, and feel, and believe. What more do I have to learn?

You are keeping me from having what I think I should have. I blame you.

I don’t know you and will never meet you but know that you love differently than I love. And you shouldn’t. You’re wrong.

You are the things I want to be, and so I think I am less of those things.

Hasn’t it been said and done? Maybe.

But? We forget. There’s saving grace. There’s batting order and rationale. There’s purpose and meaning. There’s everyone doing their part and making it work. Altogether.

And when there’s question and concern and anxiety and uncertainty and challenge and inequity and injustice and discrimination and abandonment and abuse and deprivation and withholding and ego and narcissism and and and and …

Then we bat around again, so that when we start to forget, we have the chance to remember, and we work to remind each other, that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood … that we are called to the one hope of our calling … that we once were no people, but now we are God’s people … that when one suffers all suffer together, when one rejoices all rejoice together … that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

And our neighbors.

As ourselves.

As the self we offer. As the self we are. As the self we love. As God loves us.

Rev. Courtney Richards is associate minister at Harvard Avenue Christian Church in Tulsa OK. She is a Kentuckian by birth, a Texan by nature, and is lucky to, as her mother says, ‘know people everywhere’. She is a fan of strange movies, smart kids, and spontaneous adventures. You can most often find her by following the sound of the laugh, the pulse of the dance floor, or the breeze on the patio. She writes with gratitude and welcomes Erin back to the space we were honored to keep warm.

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