The focal point of every baseball player is home plate. It is not only the beginning and end of every action but the place of the greatest triumph and failure on the diamond. In one at-bat the ballplayer hits the go-ahead home run and the next the strikeout that ends the game.
For the Christian, it is not much different. The focal point of the cross is the place of the greatest triumph and failure in our lives. The cross marks the greatest failure of humanity – our refusal to accept God in our lives and our willingness to crucify our Savior – but it is also the point of greatest triumph, where Christ rectifies our folly by subsuming it into His life.
However, more often than not, we tend towards the failing side when we go up to bat each day. We stand in the batter’s box with the bat of our own design: the bat of selfishness and self-assertion; the bat of anger and hatred; the bat of unreceptivity and impenetrability. When we daily fail to accept Christ’s love through the cross we continue that great failure witnessed to at Calvary.
Christ, as any good lead-off hitter, paved a perfect way for us that counteracts all of our own designs. The cross reveals to us how we are to come to the plate each day: by constantly turning. Turning from our disfigured ways of selfishness, anger, and impenetrability, in all their futility, and turning towards the example of Christ’s sacrifice, love and conformity to the Father on the cross. Each day we have many at-bats, and nobody bats a thousand, but the cross reveals that each time we strike out it only brings us closer to the next at-bat, where we have another chance to pick up the wood of the cross and turn towards Christ.
Finally picking up the wood of the cross is like the first hit after a week-long slump. Time and time again we have fallen, but that hit releases all anxiety and a new power and confidence wells up within us. There is a new and exuberant joy given to us when we hold the strength of the cross. Let us dare to step up to the plate with a new bat, not of our own making, but of Christ’s, which can turn all of our failings into joy.
Image: Thomas Eakins, Baseball Players Practicing