Thinking About...Little League

I’ve been thinking about Little League. If you watch sports on TV, it was hard to avoid the Little League World Series over the last few weeks. The Little League World Series makes for gripping (well, maybe not gripping, but at least compelling) TV for a few reasons. First is the whole USA versus the world theme. Second is the often laughable juxtaposition of the six foot, 200 pound, I’ve-been-through-puberty-and-now-look-like-a-full-grown-man twelve year-old with the four foot, eight inch, 89-pound eleven year-old with the baby face and doe eyes.

But the thing about the Little League World Series that intrigues me most is its honesty and transparency, particularly in contrast to Major League Baseball. You never see big leaguers cry after a throwing error leads to a run. And no professional feigns injury after giving up a three-run home run as a way to disguise the crushing blow inflicted on his ego. Little League is compelling because the players are real, their emotion is raw, their vulnerability is obvious.

When I see an eleven year old choking back tears and a coach trotting to the mound to reassure him, I regret that adult sophistication squeezes all emotion from the agony of our defeats. And when I see an exuberant smile burst across the face of a twelve-year-old who just belted an unexpected 225-foot home run, I wish adult celebrations were so joyfully spontaneous.

We ought to be more like Little Leaguers. The Christian faith has room for both disintegrating failure and surprising joy. It’s okay for us to be undone by life circumstances—those raging inside us and those outside us. It’s okay because of the good news of our rescue by Jesus who offers forgiven-ness from all our miscues. That’s a rescue that produces an unscripted celebration of God’s grace.

I’m thankful for what these Little Leaguers have taught me. Jesus himself understood that eleven and twelve year olds have lessons for us. He said: “Let the children come to me; . . . whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”