Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6
I recently had the opportunity to watch a sports documentary called “Catching Hell.” It tells the story of Steve Bartman, a 26 year old man whose life went from anonymous to infamous in the blink of an eye.
As a lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs, Steve had to be thrilled to see his favorite team make it into the 2003 postseason. What’s more, with a potent starting lineup and a bullpen filled with talented pitchers, 2003 was as good a chance as any that the Cubs ever had to break the “Curse of the Billy Goat” and make it back to the World Series. Imagine how excited he had to be when he and three of his friends were able to acquire front row seats down the left field line at Wrigley Field for Game 6 with the Cubs only one victory away from their first World Series appearance in 95 years. It was history in the making – if only he knew why.
Move forward to the eighth inning of the game. The Cubs are leading the Florida Marlins by a score of 3-0. There is one out and Cubs ace Mark Prior is on the mound facing Luis Castillo. Castillo gets out in front of a pitch and has lifted a fly ball into foul territory, down the left field line, close to the seats, heading right toward Steve Bartman. This is a baseball fan’s dream come true. Bartman and the others around him prepared for the coming prize without a moment’s thought to what was happening in front of them on the field. Cubs left fielder, Moises Alou, had ventured over toward the wall tracking the path of the ball. His head was up, his eyes fixed on both the ball and his glove as he moved into position to make the play. Finding the wall, Alou braced himself and then leaped to make the catch, but the ball never made it to his glove. Instead, the ball caromed off of the fingers of another set outstretched arms – the arms of Steve Bartman. Alou was furious. Convinced he would have made the play he reacted harshly, slamming his glove and glaring at Bartman. TV and radio crews began to debate whether the play was fan interference, so the replay aired over and over again, showing the fans, the player, and the ball trickle away from its destiny. Filling time as the umpires reviewed the play and sensing the uneasy feeling that now fell over Wrigley, the announcers made repeated jokes and comments regarding Bartman’s actions, calling him out and noting that his safety might be in jeopardy. These things were unsettling for the fans, but after all, the Cubs were still in command and only five outs away…
But then the wheels fell off. A hanging curveball, a surprising error, and a seemingly endless series of Marlins hits followed the foul ball. Suddenly the comfortable 3-0 was buried under 8 unanswered Marlin runs. The game turned. The series – although far from over in actuality was now all but conceded. The curse lived on and Steve Bartman was public enemy #1.
He was heckled, had objects thrown at him, was cursed at, threatened and for his own safety was escorted from his seat by security. His friends left him as he sat in a security office. He had to be disguised just to leave the stadium and after being recognized by irate fans, taken to a security staff member’s apartment to wait until the coast was clear. But it doesn’t end there. The media discovered his identity and reported it as part of their coverage of the game. Media and police camped outside of his family’s home waiting for him as he remained in hiding for the whole thing to blow over. Sadly, his beloved Cubs would lose game seven and missed the World Series. To this day, he remains a target of reporters wanting an interview and a few fans wanting a pound of flesh. He didn’t even have the ball to show for his troubles. Another fan sitting a few seats away eventually caught the ball and later sold it for over $100,000. Of course, over the years Steve has had more than a few lucrative offers to cash in on the incident, but he has quietly refused them, giving all appearances that he has moved forward clinging to his anonymity in the face of the world wanting him to embrace his infamy.
It’s funny how life can sometimes bring situations like this to us, forcing us to face circumstances we’d never dreamed possible. Had he known what would come of it, I dare say Steve would have stayed home and watched the game in his living room. But then again, we rarely see the pitfalls that await us. Nobody daydreams about battling addictions as a sixth grader. Married couples don’t think about how they’ll divide their dishes in the divorce as they open gifts the day after the wedding. This isn’t to say that we, like the Cubs (allegedly) are all cursed. Yes, the Bible is clear in telling us that because sin surrounds us, troubles will find us. But here’s the beauty of it: through the death and resurrection of Christ, we are able to overcome the consequences of our mistakes. Though the world may want to take one moment of our lives and use it to label us for eternity, we find strength, comfort and hope in the sure knowledge that God’s view is different. The moment He chooses to view was in a garden over 2,000 years ago as His Son rose from the dead. His victory is enough to give us victory, to break the curse that our sin has left on our lives and to redeem us to the relationship we so desperately need in Him. The world can think what it would like – but in Christ we find our way, we learn our truth, and restore our life.
Troubles will find us, but it is grace that defines us as the Savior refines us.