Looking In

Watching the College World Series the other night, I commented on something to my son Neil. LSU’s centerfielder Mikie Mahtook had hit a home run, changing the game. As he stormed down the third base line toward home, the team flowed out of the dugout to meet him. Mikie flung himself into the throng which erupted into a slapping, hollering, hugging riot. It was great to see.

I said to Neil, “Look at that. The spectators and fans watch this and are on the outside, looking in. This is something only the team experience and can share.”

Neil said, “Even the coaches are on the outside of that, Dad. This is something experienced only by the players.”

Several times over the next couple of days, as other teams in the same tournament did similar feats, the feeling only reinforced itself.

There’s something special about being a member of the team which others can watch but cannot experience.

Last night, as I write, my two sons and I were having our final night in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We had done the tours and heard the lectures and climbed the hills and read the markers and bought the books. Neil said, “I’m taking the car, Dad, for one last drive-through.”

Two hours later he returned and this is his story.

“It was mostly dark and still raining when I pulled up to the largest Monument in the Park – dedicated to the nearly 8000 men who represented Pennsylvania. There are no artifical lights in the park, so the darkness and rain added to the effect. I glanced up to the path I would walk and saw a large group of visitors. There were no other vehicles in the parking lot, so I don’t know how they arrived. I grabbed my flashflight and headed out. Upon entering the monument, the group was gone. I could see no wet footprints or other evidence of their presence. Shining my flashlight around, I noticed an entrance to a spiral staircase but could hear no voices. I slowly climbed the steamy staircase when i began to hear muffled voices. I pressed on and came to an inner chamber at the top of the stairs filled with about 70 high school students and teachers from Minnesota, along with 2 men dressed as Union soldiers. A ceremony was underway, as the students lit candles and a teacher read words in memory of the nearly 200 Minnesotans who lost their lives at G’burg. Then,the soldiers pulled out harmonicas and proceeded to play “Amazing Grace.” Then, everyone joined in and sang a verse before quietly walking out onto the roof for a moment of reflection. I was really moved to have come upon this scene – and relieved they weren’t ghosts. I went down the stairs and left, while they quietly remained within the darkened monument. I have no idea how or when they departed.”

It’s about sharing someone else’s deep moment, yet standing on the outside, unable to enter their experience.

I long to see a church family with this kind of teammanship and camaradie.

A note came from Molly this week, asking us to pray for her church which is trying to self-destruct as hard as it can. The pastor grew tired of fighting the power structure and trying to find a basis for unity and resigned. The good people of the congregation are dispirited and some are thinking of leaving in search of a healthy church.

I’ve been on the inside of that experience and do not wish it on my greatest enemy.

“God bless your people and give your churches leaders who prize unity in Christ. Amen.”

4 thoughts on “Looking In

  1. Thank you so much! Everyone’s prayers are greatly appreciated! Though I am only 18 years old, it breaks my heart to see my church going through this. Unfortunately we have some ungodly people in our congregation who wish their will to be done in our church and are obstinate to change. Please just pray that God’s will is what conquers all else in the end! 🙂

  2. Molly: Just know that through this time my prayers and other prayers are with you. God bless in your search for a good church home.

  3. I have seen that teamwork in one of my pastorates. Oh what joy to be part of it. Oh, what pain to not see it in every pastorate. Thanks, Joe, for your best blog ever!

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