I’ve been attending the high school baseball playoff games and have been enjoying the nice weather and watching the exciting play on the field. One of the features of these games — and games everywhere — is name calling.
I’m not talking about the negative kind. When a batter is up at the plate, the fellow players often start a chant calling out his name as a way of encouraging a hit. And perhaps to the chagrin of the player, a mom’s voice calls out from the crowd, “You got this Mikey!”
Of course the batter isn’t supposed to be listening to the sounds around him. Rather he’s supposed to be focusing on the incoming pitch. Yet the sound of his name in the background can only be affirming and strengthening during his time at the plate.
I wonder if seen from a spiritual perspective if this can be a metaphor for living our “lives at the plate”. The prophet Isaiah speaks for God as he says, “Don’t be afraid, because I have saved you. I have called you by name, and you are mine.” Yes, I believe God calls out our name as a sign of love and encouragement throughout our lives.
Like the batter at the plate, we’re often concentrating on what we’re doing so that we’re not listening to God’s calling out to us. But when we take a still moment (as I suggest you do now that you’re reading this) perhaps we’ll be able to experience an affirming moment where God chants our name again and again. Can you hear it?
John’s gospel says, “Whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has led them out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.”
You see, God calls us (the sheep) by name. God doesn’t relate to us as some group, but as God has specifically created each of us, God loves us and calls to us in a personal and intimate way. Think of the times God calls people by name in the bible: “Abraham! Abraham!’ “Moses! Moses!” “Samuel! Samuel” “Hail Mary!” “Saul!”
I believe these stories are told so that we can be open to hearing God speaking our name and guiding us to the fulfillment of our lives. In listening to the call we are not only encouraged but led. It’s like the coach who signals to the batter to bunt or swing for the fences — amidst all the other distractions, the batter who pays attention to the coach knows not only what to do individually, but how to be a team player. So too it is with watching for the signals from God. We’re not only guided in our personal choices, but since God knows the big game plan for life, we are better team players when we’re open to divine coaching.
I hope you get a chance to stop by your local athletic field to support the hometown teams. And stop your local house of worship to be supported in your own game of life.