Spring always means a few things for me – flowers blooming, my allergies booming, and spending most of my spare time on a cold, metal bleacher watching baseball, my throat sore from all the cheering. Full disclosure: sometimes it’s not all cheering. I have, on occasion, disagreed with an umpire’s call and made my feelings known on the subject…loudly.
But I digress.
I’ve followed my nephew from his early days in the sport right up to his current college team. There are moments when I see him out on the field and I’m instantly taken back to when he was just a 10-year-old kid. His intensity, his focus, his drive was apparent even then. Now he has the physical strength and skill to match all that initial potential. It is such a wonderful, bittersweet moment seeing the boy (now a man) honing and using his God-given talent with great success.
I look forward to each home game and do whatever I can to insure that I will be in my seat when play begins. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been a part of this “world” for many years. I come prepared with: snacks, water, blankets, gloves, umbrella, sweatshirt or jacket, because I know that for the next 3-4 hours, I’m not going anywhere. I can’t. No, seriously, I firmly believe that once I’m in my spot, I cannot leave until the game is over. Dehydration becomes a genuine concern though. I’m hesitant to consume too many liquids because that could mean having to leave my spot to use the facilities. That simply cannot happen, so I drink less and slowly dry up from the inside out.
Recently, I’ve come to realize that I’m a bit superstitious when it comes to baseball. Now I’ve heard that a lot of players are very superstitious, regardless of their religious affiliation. If they have an amazing day, they will do anything and everything to try and duplicate it. This could range from the benign: a pre-swing series of moves such as adjusting the helmet and batting gloves, kicking the dirt, etc.; to the disturbing: not washing certain socks or undergarments because they’ve been deemed “lucky”. You know what’s not lucky? Being stuck anywhere near the stench emanating from those items. There is absolutely nothing lucky about that!
I was never an athlete. I always loved volleyball, but never played on a school team. I was drawn more to the arts and entertainment. (Shocking, right?) I was the band geek, the drama queen, the chorus member. I’m also a person of faith. (Shocking too, right? Don’t worry, I’m getting somewhere with all this stating of the seemingly obvious.) The point is that I wasn’t raised in the sports culture of luck and superstition, so why do I have it now as a fan? And just how bad am I?
I have a cap I got from when I visited Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I usually wear it when I go for a run. I don’t know when it started, but one day I was feeling particularly exhausted and still had a ways to go. I didn’t want to stop and walk, so I turned my cap around and kept going. The weirdest thing happened. I felt energized. I guess it could be called mind over matter, but that symbolic gesture just gave me that extra push.
From that day to the present, whenever I start to feel myself fading or losing stamina, I will turn that hat around, and something happens. I suddenly get very intense and focused, determined to finish my run. Mind you, I look rather silly with the cap on backwards, but I don’t care. It gives me this odd sense of power and assurance.
So one day I’m watching my nephew and his team play, and I’m wearing this cap. The game is tied up and they’re going into extra innings. It’s been a battle from the start, so the crowd (mostly me) is amped up. I want to do something to help the team. Sure, I’m cheering them on, but what else can I do? I’ve got it! I’ll turn this hat around. And so I did. And they won!
I thanked the Lord for being with them, keeping them safe and giving them the opportunity to enjoy the victory. But I also set a mental precedent. I must always have the cap with me. And I must always be prepared to turn that hat around when the team needs it.
Yes, you read that correctly. I, Kat, a woman of faith actually began to believe that my wearing a specific cap backwards somehow affected the outcome of a collegiate sporting event! My belief was further validated during another game. The team was down, so I turned that hat around. Boom. Victory.
Now deep down I know that this ritualistic behavior has no impact. But that has not stopped me. I don’t want to take any chances. The one time I might leave that hat home and they lose, a part of me would wonder if in some small way it was my fault. As I write that, I realize just how goofy it sounds. There’s nothing rational about it. It makes no sense.
In fact, the last two times I deployed this winning “strategy” of mine, the team proceeded to lose anyway. With that undeniable evidence in front of me, you would think I’d stop. But I can assure you that cap will be in my bag for the next game.
My example may seem a bit silly, and it is. But it got me thinking about how many other habits, rituals, or superstitions am I unwittingly employing in my life? The hat thing hasn’t hindered me in any real way, but there can be unhealthy behaviors that might consume us if we don’t recognize, acknowledge, and address them.
One of the most interesting things about being in a relationship is when you do something that seems perfectly normal to you and your family, but your partner looks at you like you have two heads. Those are your habits, your learned behaviors. For example, I often use a knife and fork to eat my pizza. Some people find this crazy. These are also the same people later spewing expletives as the hot cheese drips down their face scalding their mouth and chin. I graciously pass them my water and continue blowing on my cut slice nestled safely on my fork. I then partake of its tastiness while remaining second-degree burn-free.
Is there any Biblical foundation for rituals?
In the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments were given by God to Moses for the people of Israel. These were specific guidelines, rules and regulations for proper conduct. In addition, there were very explicit instructions provided for performing sacrificial rituals, sin offerings and so forth. This was the time of the Law, the precursor to Jesus. When Jesus came, He said that His was a New Covenant. Now instead of rituals and animal sacrifices, because of Jesus’s death and resurrection, everyone has the opportunity to reunite and reconnect with the God who made them, if they so choose. The New Testament’s emphasis is much more on relationship rather than ritual.
As I see it, the trouble with rituals is that you tend to lose a conscious connection. Over time, you may no longer know the why of the what. Why do you do what you do? In the case of small things: like my cap or even how you roll up a tube of toothpaste, there’s little chance of serious harm or detriment. But when it comes to bigger topics: how you treat people, how you treat yourself, your core values, it can become serious. Operating out of a ritualistic or superstitious mindset (this is what we’ve always done, I’ve always been this way, I don’t know why I just do it like that) may have a significant impact on your life and the lives of those around you.
The cap situation (Cap-gate if you will) has given me a chance to reflect and address other superstitions or ritualistic behaviors and habits I may hold. You might find this exercise productive as well. I pray that God shows both you and me any areas that need adjustment, so we can keep our head on straight, regardless of which way our cap is facing.
Until next time, stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.
Look forward to hearing from you.