Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Surpised by....

On Monday night my younger boys and I went to see the Cincinnati Reds play the Pittsburgh Pirates; two teams that are tied for last place in the National League Central division. The Reds trailed for most of the game and at the bottom of the ninth inning the Reds trailed by one run, causing some in the crowd of 20,000 to leave the stadium. The first batter up for the Reds in the ninth inning was the catcher, David Ross, who hit a double. Next up for the Reds was Ken Griffey, Jr. or simply "Junior" as he's referred to by Cincinnati fans.

I've enjoyed following Griffey Jr.'s career over the years. Growing up in Ohio, I was a fan first of his father who played for the "Big Red Machine". The first time I saw "Junior" play was in 1990, his second year in the Major Leagues, when I had gone to Seattle to visit my grandparents. That game was terrific, as the Mariners faced Nolan Ryan, a veteran pitcher with the Texas Rangers. When the Rangers were batting, Ken Griffey Sr. played left field for the Mariners, with his son in center.

For Monday night's game, as an older Ken Griffey, Jr. came to the plate, the crowd rose to their feet and began cheering and clapping. Soon the pitcher was in his wind-up, and then seconds after the pitch was released, Griffey Jr. hit the ball deep over the center field wall to win the game for the Reds. It was his 603rd home run.

The crowd, the boys, and I were ecstatic. It was so fun to watch.

On the drive home, the boys talked all about the "walk-off home run" while I thought about C.S. Lewis and his many references to joy. It was a concept that Lewis had first encountered in his youth, then in later life, saw the Christian implications.

Lewis used the German word "Sehnsucht" to describe the intense feeling of joy that people can experience. In "The Screwtape Letters", he has a senior demon named Screwtape explain this about joy to his nephew (who was assigned to tempt a Christian):

"Fun is closely related to Joy--a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct. It is very little use to us (demons). It can sometimes be used, of course, to divert humans from something else which (God) would like them to be feeling or doing; but in itself it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils."
As Lewis noted in other writing, finding joy can sometimes be surprising...like I found at the bottom of the ninth inning of a baseball game.

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