Somebody gave me the coolest Christmas gift this year: three spring training games in Tempe, Arizona for my team, the Los Angeles Angels (I don’t think you have to say “of Anaheim” any more – it’s official). The package includes a hotel for two nights. The only thing it doesn’t cover is transportation which for me spells almost the best part of the deal – another of my favorite things besides baseball – ROAD TRIP! Tempe is a perfect six to seven hour drive from my house. I will leave in the pre-dawn hours of the first day and get there well before the one o’clock game time. That means breakfast in a Route 66 style diner somewhere along the way. There is just nothing negative about this whole deal. Even the time alone is something my introverted, melancholy nature longs for. What can I say? It was a gift. I have to do this. I would be ungrateful if I didn’t. See … it’s even guilt free.
I’ve done this once before and there are so many aspects to it that make it appealing. The stadium is small and intimate. The players are close to you. Everybody is in a casual mood, free of the usual pressure associated with game time. Opportunities for autographs abound. Go over in the morning and make a day of it. You can walk around the many practice fields and watch the various groups working out. One coach is working with the infielders on one diamond, Mike Scioscia is working with the catchers on another. Or stand behind the left field fence while Albert Pujols is batting and catch a home run ball. Watch the new young players and mark the ones who will be stars someday. On top of that, there are three games thrown in. Three whole games! That’s probably more than I’ll see all year in Angel Stadium in Anaheim. To a lover of the game, it’s hard to beat this.
With this weekend neatly tucked away in my calendar for March, I find myself thinking of it often and I smile inside when I do. It’s become something to look forward to – a gift already paid for that no one can take away.
You know, we have a similar gift from the Lord and I am hereby giving you all permission to look forward to it. It’s called eternity with each other and Jesus. It’s something beyond imagination – a gift already paid for that no one can take away. It’s entirely guilt free. You won’t be able to sin if you wanted to. You won’t have to follow the law because we will all be following it perfectly in our hearts. Our bodies will be in line with our spirits. We’ll be able to hang out with all the greats. No need for autographs; we’ll just sit down and talk. No watching someone else do it because we’ll all be doing it. And here’s the best part: there will be no end to it. No time when the weekend is over. It’s not a holiday; it’s every day. It’s the thing itself – the reason we were created – fully known and experienced by all of us.
Can you look forward to that? You bet. Not to the extent that you lose sight of the present, (this baseball package would be a bad gift if I spent all my time daydreaming about it, or if it caused me to be any less committed to my life and its responsibilities) but it can provide an incentive to live now with the knowledge that something’s coming. Everything I do now contributes to what I will experience then. Count on it. Build on it. Whatever you are going through right now, hang on, you’re creating something inevitable. These lives of ours – this one and the next – are tied together. We all have something to look forward to.