On Normalization

Today, I’m going to write about two “manly” things: baseball and fire.

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last week about the concept of normalization. When I started this journey, my life was in a state of great unrest, and I was constantly under an extreme amount of stress. The entire fabric of my personality was figuratively coming apart at the seams.

When I first started flirting with the idea of accepting Christ in my life, I was around 19 years old. At the time, I was a big baseball fan. It’s an old game, and I found it somewhat romantic. Fifteen years ago, I had something of a revelation when I was looking at a baseball, and an analogy popped into my head that I used before to mentally wrap my head around my id as it relates to God. Even though my faith in God didn’t stick at the time, I still think about that analogy. I was a young fool, but I think there was something to the idea, so I’d like to revisit the analogy now.

A baseball is made up of individual pieces, stitched together to make it whole.

You could say that the core of the baseball is the most important part. The cork and rubber core is what really makes a baseball do its thing when it comes off the bat. In a person, I think this is analogous to our core beliefs. They are what motivates us, even subconsciously. When a ball is struck, the core flexes, and then the resilience of the cork and rubber pops it back into shape, and gives the ball it’s momentum. In much the same way, our core beliefs are our driving force, even when we are affected externally (hopefully not with a bat.)

You could say it’s the yarn bulk of a baseball that’s the most important. It gives the baseball its shape and heft and size, and transfers the momentum from the bat to the pliant core. In me, this is the traits and desires that fill out my personality. The good parts of me, and the bad. The part that makes me myself. Even in the most difficult of times, my personality remains more or less unchanged.

You might say that the most important part is the leather covering. It’s what covers the ball, and in this analogy it’s representative of the physical aspect of our bodies; the outward appearance. But it’s not really what keeps the whole thing together.

I would argue that the stitching is the most important part of the baseball. It’s what keeps the leather stitched together at the seams. It’s what keeps the yarn and cork and rubber inside, and it’s what keeps the ball from falling apart when adversity strikes. Even one tiny flaw in the stitching can result in complete destruction. The stitching in this analogy, of course, is faith. (The discussion about who made the ball can be left unsaid, I think.)

Faith is what holds us together when we are struck–when we are under duress–and that faith was what I was missing when I started coming apart at the seams. It is also what stitched me back together when I was left unraveled and in shambles.

But what I’ve been thinking about lately is what happens when we are all put together, and we’re just a whole person, sitting there. The ball can’t do anything by itself. It must be handled, thrown and struck to have a purpose.

My moods have more or less stabilized. I draw strength and focus and determination from a different place, but a lot of me is still in tact. I don’t think I’ll ever come apart that way again, because I’m ready for another strike. I am also ready for a new purpose.

When I first started this journey, my soul was on fire. I became driven towards a goal, and towards a purpose. Now, that bonfire has quieted some. I don’t still feel that desperate need, even though I am intent on pursuing God and Christ’s love. I have rebuilt my support system, reconnected with lost friends, and become a child of God. How, then, do I make sure that my fire doesn’t fade into dying embers?

I came across this verse when reading the other day. “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6). The word “revive” inspired me. When a fire is dying, it must be tended and rekindled. It requires maintenance, and that maintenance is something I’ve talked about here before. Fuel must be added, care must be taken, and bellows must be worked. This, I think, is what people mean when they talk about growing with God. They are constantly working at tending their fire. They are taking on ever bigger challenges, tackling ever-more-difficult concepts, and building still larger fires. Perhaps in this analogy, they are actually constructing a kiln to make their fire hotter, and to give it purpose.

Tonight, and every night, I will pray for revitalization as I tend my own fire.

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