A Christian Science perspective.
Recently, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer told me that instead of working to be better than others, he just focuses on being a bit better than he was in his last game. No wonder he’s enjoyed such an extraordinarily long and successful career!
Many sports fans identify personally with a team and feel a lot of happiness, and even self-worth, when the team wins. Because my friends know I once had a baseball career, they often ask whom I’m rooting for. Ever since my college days, that’s been a difficult question to answer. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a very competitive person in that I believe in giving only my absolute best effort. But I also believe that an athlete’s real competition lies only within himself or herself. I drew this conclusion from my study of the Bible, and other books that have helped me dig out bits and pieces of the Bible’s meaning, like “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy. Through this book I began learning how the all-encompassing force for good that governs the universe also created us. This force – God, in other words – is singular, in all senses of that word. One God, one force, one Mind, overlying all existence and expressing itself. Not in multiples of the same model or person, but expressed in individual identities.
I realized that just as one number cannot replace another number, each of us, as God’s creation, is unique. Because everyone on an athletic field is truly one of a kind, one participant can’t really be stronger or weaker than another. Each individual magnifies God’s nature in a distinct way. So I can’t honestly root for one over another. Instead, I’ve decided to enjoy personal improvement and mental growth wherever I happen to see it.
An Old Testament scripture says, “Remember that thou magnify his work” (Job 36:24). It’s encouraging to realize that each of us exists in a role that constantly affords opportunities to magnify – to show forth – the rich and various attributes of God. When looked at in the light of competition, our enjoyment of the spiritual qualities people are expressing is anything but some sort of religious cop-out; it actually takes competition to a much higher level.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “Deity was satisfied with His work. How could He be otherwise, since the spiritual creation was the outgrowth, the emanation, of His infinite self-containment and immortal wisdom?” (Science and Health, p. 519). I’ve found that to be a witness to the work, the emanation, of God, seen in the unique expression of His attributes, is really a lot of fun.
Qualities such as accuracy, grace, mental toughness, unselfishness, power, and unashamed happiness are, to me, the substance of participation in all sports – and of watching them. God said to Moses, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee” (Ex. 33:19). Of course it’s fun to be rooting for your favorite team. But you can see how team colors don’t ultimately matter as much as the competition with oneself to express a little more of God’s gifts each day.
Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.