It's your turn. You step up to the plate and get ready for the pitch.
How do you hold the bat? Are you gripping it tightly?
My son's first season of Little League just ended and I watched the kids step up to the plate one by one with bat in hand. Most clutched it with all of their might, hoping to get a hit. And isn't it easy to see why a death grip might translate into a better chance to make contact with the ball?
The truth is, it doesn't.
Don't believe me? Watch the below video by Don Mattingly, MLB player, coach and manager. In holding the bat loosely, a batter has a better opportunity to not only hit the ball, but increase their bat speed. In other words, with less effort, they hit it harder and farther! Isn't that a paradox?!
We tend to have a death grip on all of life.
Harder equals better, so we think. This is especially true of the spiritual life...so much efforting. For many of us, we try really hard. If we don't get the results we want, we try harder. Our tendency can be to believe the more Scripture we read or the more we pray, the better Christians we'll be or the more God will love us. Instead we just add spiritual practices to our list of compulsions. We white-knuckle spiritual disciplines like we do people and other parts of our lives, hoping that in doing so we'll have more control and favorable outcomes.
Thomas Keating once said, "When we do less, God can act." He wasn't advocating lack of practice (it's still important for 6-year-olds to practice baseball skills!). The difference is in how and what we are practicing. Are we stepping up to the plate and squeezing the life out of the bat over and over again hoping for a different outcome? Or are we holding the bat loosely trusting that when the ball comes, we'll have the strength and power we need? Keating was inviting people into Centering Prayer, a way of prayer that seems counter to our way of life...being still in silence.
What if we relaxed our grip a bit? What if we practiced holding all things (and people) loosely? This kind of paradox-holding may be the spiritual exercise you need today. So whatever the practices are that help you release your stranglehold on life, those are the spiritual practices for you right now.
Kasey is a scarf, ball and club juggling spiritual director just outside of Nashville, TN. Play helps her Type-A, Enneagram 1 personality relax, creating space for poetry and other words to emerge. She also likes playing with theological ideas like perichoresis, and all the ways we're invited into this Triune dance.