Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Sweet Spot

Yes, it is that time again when a young man's fancy turns to spring training.  What did you expect me to say? It is time for America's past time. No, not political campaigns, baseball. Pitchers are honing their skills with grip pressures, arm angles, core exercises and repetition. Hitters are doing the same kinds of things with their bats to try and hit the ball on the sweet spot of the bat for maximum distance and control. The sound of a 90 mph ball hitting the sweet spot on a bat swung at 85 mph with an exit speed of 105 mph is unmistakable. The sound itself causes the heart to leap for the batter, the manager and the whole dugout. It sings potential, hope, and succe$$. The same sound causes the gut to tighten, the mouth to form words of lament, the head to fall, the feet to kick dirt to the battery of pitcher and catcher. Ah, the sweet spot, one team greatly desiring it, one team trying to avoid it, at least for three outs.

Where exactly is the "sweet spot" on a baseball ball? It is actually, scientifically possible to point it out on each bat. Bat manufacturers and other "sports scientists" work with Newton's laws of motion, density levels of different woods, vibration algorithms, swing speeds and other factors to pinpoint the sweet spot on bats.  The hard variable to factor is the human batter. Each swing is a little different in speed, angle, and force. The formulas sports scientists can use (E=0. 5x mv2 or F=M x A) regarding mass, force, acceleration change in real-life situations. Of course, this is one of the appeals of baseball, you never know when the .186 batter, hitting eighth will hit the sweet spot and send the ball over the wall. By the way, roughly speaking--the sweet spot is about 6 to 8 inches down from the end of the bat, off grain, mid-diameter.

Have you ever wondered if there is a sweet spot spiritually? Where is the perfect spot for growth in Christlikeness that balances the inner meditations with outward vital service? Where does the relationship deepen in Christ to the point of an intimacy without losing touch with the hurts, needs, and fellowship with other humans? Is there a spiritual sweet spot that balances time with believers and time with unbelievers? Is there a way or a formula for balancing the reading of the Word of God with the living out its truths in the everyday world? Where is that sweet spot between being and doing, faith and works, contentment in the relationship with Jesus and being driven to share Him with the lost? Where is the sweet spot of doing justice in a hate-filled, cruel, broken world and longing for our heavenly home?

These are all questions I cannot answer for you but they are all question every Christian should ask with a dozen more of which we could and should consider. This I know, you will never find the sweet spot by not grappling with these kinds of questions. You will never come close to it by not studying the word, by not pushing yourself beyond comfort zones to serve, by not being open to the Holy Spirit's leading, prodding, and stretching you in your relationship to Him and service in His name. The church has identified inner, outer, and corporate disciplines that help us find our sweet spot spiritually. (see Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline). Not any us will become perfect in any of these but we can mature, grow, become more, and when needed, less as we walk with Christ.

I don't really know if there is a "sweet spot" spiritually. There are too many moving parts and variables from person to person, and day to day for each person. Jesus is really the sweet spot. Know him, love him, obey him. He made it simple when he said the greatest commandment was to love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and strength and your neighbor as yourself. He said to seek first God's kingdom and his righteousness and he would add everything else you need. Get in the game. You will know that sweet spot when you hit it. Enjoy it.

Mickey Mantle is argued among baseball fanatics as possibly the man who hit more 500 foot home runs than anyone else. One website gives him ten over 500 ft, two over 600 ft. He hit the sweet spot on his bat a lot. He struck out 1710 times. The real sin is not missing the sweet spot, but in never trying to find it.

Batter up!