When I was about eight I decided that I wanted to join Little League. I was sure that I was destined to be a great baseball player. My dad offered to help me practice and played catch with me in the backyard every day after work. I got through the tryouts and was placed on a team. Soon, though, I found other things more interesting than practicing. Other boys on my team who were focused practiced constantly. They became the first string. I got into a game only if we had a big lead. Dad again offered to practice with me but I wanted to do other things. I spent more and more time on the bench and mom spent less and less time washing stains out of my uniform. So ended my first year in baseball. The following Spring I again tried out for a team. I didn’t survive the first cut. My dad’s only comment: “Now, why do you think that happened?”
As children most of us learn that casual commitment rarely results in success. Woody Allen’s cleverness not withstanding showing up isn’t 80% percent of life. We know that to maintain strong relationships, a successful career, happy children and good health we have to make choices and commit ourselves seriously to what we value.
It’s always been interesting to me that we all know this fact of life but many of us don’t apply it to our faith. Maybe that’s because there’s no immediate gain or loss for living a deeply faithful life. No one can actually prove that sitting out every game on the bench isn’t just as good as practicing constantly and sweating each play. Christian faith is a long-term game. One can give one’s whole life to the coming of God’s future and die without tasting the rewards. Ask Jesus.
Commitment is essential to faith. We aren’t going to become proficient at living faith unless we spend real time reflecting on what God is doing in our world and watching carefully for each day’s opportunities to align ourselves with his work.
We speak of practicing faith. That means that we live faith in every situation. It also means that we develop our ability to respond faithfully to situations before the need actually arises. It’s how we avoid hearing God ask: Now why do you think that happened?