I went to spring training this past weekend, which is ironic if you know me, because baseball isn’t my sport of choice – I’ve always been more of a football/basketball/literally anything else, kind-of guy. I just never understood baseball I guess– it seemed so boring and monotonous. I used to joke that the only time I watched it on TV was when I couldn’t get to sleep and needed something to doze off to.
Now at this point in the conversation, I could make a lot of cliché male sports enthusiast references (i.e. sometimes in life you strike out, just have to step up to the plate, take another swing, etc.) but I won’t put you through that. I like baseball well enough now, but the reason I like it isn’t because of the slow-paced action or the fact that players are able to use tobacco while playing –which I find amusing. No, the reason I like baseball is because of the people I get to watch it with: a few of my best friends and former roommates.
They love baseball. One of them has an entire wardrobe of predominantly Orioles gear, and the other always has a glove sitting in his backseat. They know all the stats, are former players themselves and will travel extensively for games, as well as watch pretty much any game that is on.
I loved going to spring training because they loved it, and that’s enough. We got to sit in hot stands for hours on end, watching a game I don’t really understand all that well, and it was great. I’ve gotten a chance to become best friends with these few people and with that comes enjoying things I never thought I would before, and experiencing things I never thought I would either.
When I first arrived at Wake Forest, I wanted to run in the other direction. I felt isolated because of my beliefs, and felt like I didn’t fit in at all. I went home from class feeling insignificant and considered dropping out or transferring. The whole time, older students kept telling me to trust the process, which I resented because that made me feel like there was something wrong with me.
But I stuck with it. And things started to change. I made friends– great friends actually. Friends who I will have for life, who will be in my wedding and who I’ll call when my children are born. I got to know people whom I’m not even slightly close to on the theological spectrum, and who I respect greatly even though we disagree. I got to care for other students, and show them that maybe evangelicals aren’t hateful, and I learned that maybe liberal theology wasn’t as horrific as I had thought before.
What’s that have to do with baseball? Not much. But both are about community. I didn’t keep watching baseball because I suddenly loved tracking ERAs and I didn’t stay at Wake Forest because I suddenly agreed with new theology. I stayed because of the people. What I’ve learned most through my time at Wake is not Church History (though I know that now too), but that it’s okay to talk to people with different beliefs, it’s good to like them, and it’s great to be friends with them. The Church needs more of that. You don’t need to agree with everyone’s likes, dislikes and theology to be in community with them. You just have to be willing to step up to the plate and take a swing (…sorry).
James Harris is currently a chaplain candidate in the United States Air Force. He enjoys eating diner breakfasts, listening to podcasts and playing pick-up basketball.