Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Oh No-NO! (Yes, YES!)

Yes, this is about baseball but, like most discussions about baseball, it’s a whole lot more.

You see, Jon Lester pitched a no-hitter last night for the Boston Red Sox. No-hitters are wonderful because they are rare, but something even more rare than a sports milestone happened last night in Fenway Park.

Nineteen months ago, in the middle of pitching his rookie year for the Red Sox, Jon Lester was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Apparently, if a young adult HAS to have cancer, this is one to have, with a 90+% cure rate. But cancer is cancer, and when Red Sox nation were informed of the 22-year-old Lester’s diagnosis, millions of people gasped, and held their stomachs. People get cancer every day, and it’s never fair, especially in someone so young. But to see it play out on the public stage like that was a grim reminder that this ugly reminder of a fallen creation is always lurking, striking young and old, rich and poor, talented or ordinary when we least expect it.

Lester got a clean bill of health right before spring training 2007 and was ‘allowed’ by medical folks, the Boston Red Sox, and his millions of brothers, sisters, mom’s and dad’s to come to camp. The Red Sox wisely started him in the minor leagues last year because no one wanted to risk his health (except Lester himself, perhaps). His first game back in the majors was in Cleveland later that season, with his parents flying in from the West Coast to watch. The cameras kept cutting to his parents, especially his mother, and I wanted to cry with her.

Last night, I swear I heard Mrs. Lester whoop for joy from 3000 miles away.

This past Sunday, I asked my class on Ezra when the last time they experienced a genuine and pure yelp of joy. Like no-hitters, perhaps they are too rare. One member of our study suggested that God intends such ebullient expressions to be an customary (though heart-felt) part of worship. We agreed in principle though, as New Englanders, we looked at each other and wondered if any of us would dare to leap and raise our hands high to the Lord.

Which is why last night was so special. Less than a year ago, another young Red Sox pitcher pitched a no-hitter. Yes—they are rare but we’ve been doubly blessed. We were thrilled for Clay Buchholz and danced the happy dance but it’s not the same as watching Jon Lester return to the game last summer, pitch the winning game of last fall’s World Series, and deliver an astounding performance last night.

Sports allows us to whoop for joy.

God’s majesty requires us to.

Thanks, Jon, and thank you, Jesus.

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