It broke my heart. I know it always will. It’s part of the game. Even if your team wins it all, the next day, it stops. Suddenly, the pattern of sun and seventh innings, of balls and strikes, of peanuts and cracker jacks breaks—along with your heart—and baseball stops. But on March 12th, baseball stopped before it had even begun. And my heart broke.
Baseball is a constant in the life of my family. Our vacations are planned around the home schedule of the Atlanta Braves. I watch almost every Braves game. From Opening Day to the final out of the season, baseball is a constant in our home. So when Major League Baseball cancelled the rest of Spring Training and pushed back Opening Day by at least two weeks, I felt a profound sadness. Like Bart Giamatti, I was counting on baseball. “I was counting on the game’s deep patterns, three strikes, three outs, three times three innings, and its deepest impulse, to go out and back, to leave and to return home, to set the order of the day and to organize the daylight.” But due to the measures our nation is taking to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, one of my constants is gone with no sure date of return. The unease I feel in this moment is deep and I know I am not alone.
In the providence of God, the theme my church chose for the year 2020 is “Yesterday, Today, Forever.” It’s based on Hebrews 13:8.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.Hebrews 13:8 (ESV)
This is a core tenant of the Christian faith. God does not change. He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. It’s the reality that Christians have clung to for millennia as they faced famine, persecution, and plague. It is an anchor that holds no matter the strength of the storm. It’s why the church grows when difficulties intensify. This God who bids us to come and find rest for our weary souls is the same God who called Abram, changed his name and promised to make him a blessing to the nations. This is the same God whose presence caused Mt. Sinai to smoke and quake and caused Moses’ face to shine. This is the same God who walked with David through the valley of the shadow of death. This same God spoke through the prophets and the Law and then came as a man to fulfill them both. Jesus—he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Why does this comfort me? Because the God who never changes has promised us something.
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 28:20, ESV)
We have never been promised an easy life. The idea that our lives should be fat, lazy and light never came from the Bible (despite what you have heard from the religious hucksters and evangelical frauds populating television airwaves). Christians follow a crucified Messiah—one who said that following him involves picking up our cross. If you are looking for an easy life, Christianity doesn’t promise it. But what it does promise is so much greater. It promises the presence of God.
The story of the Bible is one of pursuit. Not man’s pursuit of God, but of God’s pursuit of man. God wants to be with his people. And in the coming of Jesus, we have the penultimate act in his pursuit. He has come and dealt with the sin that separated us. He ascended and sent his Spirit to dwell within us. No matter what we face, we do not do it alone. And those who endure to end are promised a new heaven and new earth away from the presence of sin and its effects and fully in the presence of Jesus “where everything sad is coming untrue.”
Life without constants is chaos. And right now, almost every constant in life is being taken away from us due to the extraordinary measures needed to contain the spread of COVID-19. It feels unsettling. It fees chaotic. But there is one constant that remains—one no virus can touch.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)
So if your life feels chaotic, if your constants no longer seem sure, come to Jesus. He doesn’t promise to remove the chaos right now. He promises you his presence in the midst of it. And he promises you a future in a Kingdom that cannot be shaken—with a few peanuts and cracker jacks thrown in for good measure.