I wear many hats. I have vocational hats: professor, pastor, president. I have relational hats: husband, father, friend. One of my favorite hats is a baseball hat. For six months out of the year, I’m Coach Joe. My sons currently reside in that precious time between the ages of 8 and 14 in which it’s possible for their dad to double as their coach.
Living in Minnesota, baseball season is a precious commodity. Unlike other climates, our season is restricted to a very particular time of year. And as a family, we seek to maximize it. From March to mid-July, my evenings and weekends are filled with throwing and catching, pitching and hitting, practices and games. (Then we take a few weeks off before enjoying a brief Fall Ball season from now until October).
For us, youth baseball is a family affair. My wife loves the game—loves to watch, to cheer, and (thankfully) to take pictures and videos so we can capture the moments. Even my two-year old gets in on the act, giving fist bumps to our hitters as they head to the plate.
Every youth baseball season is magical. This past season was especially so. My middle son’s team had a phenomenal year—winning their league and playoffs, and making a great state tournament run (not to mention being a hilarious group of 10 year olds). My oldest’s team was the most magical of all. A goofy group of city kids who had a mediocre season and then a remarkable stretch run, climaxing in a Gopher State Championship (complete with an amazing personal milestone for my son in the final game). I tell the story of that Hollywood-worthy season here.
For a few weeks after, I (and the other coaches) were in a baseball daze. We couldn’t believe it. What a wonderful experience with my sons and the other players and coaches. It wasn’t just about the wins or the state title; it was the journey, the growth, the maturity, and the fortitude we saw in the kids (not to mention the fun and laughter).
But for me there was an especially poignant moment in the week after the season ended. Driving around reminiscing about how great and remarkable the season was and how glad I was to share it with my sons, my mind posed this question: Joe, if you had to choose between this amazing baseball experience with your sons, or a closer walk with Jesus, which would you choose? Baseball reverie or a greater sense of God’s fatherly presence in your life?
This is the kind of question Christian Hedonists ask. And we ask it because the Bible directs us to. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And on earth there is nothing I desire besides you?” “I count everything as rubbish compared to knowing Christ.” “The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life, and youth baseball championships, and great memories with your family.
The reason that moment in the car was so poignant to me is because the answer came easily and effortlessly. I’d gladly trade the best baseball season ever for a greater sense of God’s fatherly presence. I’d rather abide in Jesus, than in baseball reverie. And this answer was no knock on the intensity of my joy in coaching baseball. Nor did I seek to diminish my reverie in order to honor the Lord. The directness of the question and the directness of the response was simply owing to the fact that I know deep in my bones who I was made for.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to choose between baseball reverie and abiding in Jesus, between being Coach Joe and Christian Hedonist Joe. If anything, the question drew me back to the memories of the season with a deepened sweetness. These moments with my wife and sons at the ballpark are glorious. And fleeting. A few years and they’ll be done. But they are also foretastes of a greater glory, of fullness of joy and eternal pleasures at God’s right hand.
Clinging to Jesus with you,
Dr. Joe Rigney
- Pray for our students returning to classes to abide in Jesus in everything they do.
- Praise the Lord with us that our international students have arrived and been able to get settled.
- Praise the Lord for vibrant community after the year of COVID.
- We’re wrapping up the Summer’s appeal for the Alex Steddom International Student Fund. Pray whether you might be called to contribute toward calling another seminarian from the nations for the nations.