April 13, 2011 | Viewpoints | Number 8
Phil Wagler |

I was handed a paper that I shoved in my pocket unread. But, later, the title caught my attention as I was about to drop it in recycling: “Relax.” That word thrust me back to a “Teen-dom” ruled by mullets and neon, where “relax” was used to call people back from hysterics because of some youthful limit-pushing.

The article must have been written with that in mind. Here’s a snippet: “Everyone now take a step backwards and a quick, deep breath, and remember, before it begins, what this is supposed to be about. It is supposed to be about kids and too often we—the adults—lose perspective and get caught up in our own . . . ambitions.”

This caution was for parents in my son’s baseball league: A written notice for adults to cease the vein-popping, hernia-inducing stupidity that comes with believing your kid is the next Jose Bautista. It is plain talk: Relax and remember what it’s supposed to be about. Baseball is about enjoying leather and laughter, bat and ball, sunshine and sweat. Adults, not kids, turn it into ambition and agendas.

This relaxation primer should be given to some people in the church. When once we first believed—when the wonder of grace, the love and justice of God, the passion of the cross, the depth of our sin, the glory of resurrection, the transformative power of the Holy Spirit and Jesus-centred community first startled us awake—did we not pour from our depths the words of that peculiar band of my youth, “Send me, take me, use me, spend me, I am not my own”? These are the self-abandoned sentiments of first love.

Then, slowly, stealthily, we succumb to agendas and discontent. Someone lets us down. A decision we don’t like is made. Something is called “foul” that we’re convinced is “fair” (or vice versa). Someone else is given a responsibility we covet. We suddenly forget what this is all about. We make the kingdom about me or about those who think like me. We lose perspective. We turn on each other. We get caught up by ambition or trapped by past pain. It’s as if we need a note that says, “Relax.”

This world is a broken place inhabited by broken people. Abortions of baby girls in India are staggeringly rampant. AIDS is producing a generation of fatherless and motherless kids. Folks in Japan and Haiti would simply be glad for a house. Your neighbours drown in a sea of debt as their marriage crumbles. That awkward kid on your child’s team is being abused. Loneliness is pandemic. Countless many are heading towards eternity bound by sin and blinded by idolatry.

And you! You have been made alive in Christ by faith. You have been set free by the gracious act of God. You are following a new master and are a citizen of a new land. You are part of an amazing community of saints in heaven and on earth who carry a treasure in jars of clay. Have you lost the plot? Have you placed your ambition ahead of your Lord’s?

Relax. Step back before you start another parking lot conversation, letter campaign or Facebook defriending. Take a breath before you make some political play rather than gospel move. Remember who this is for and what it’s all about before you ruin it for the kids, before tarnishing both your name and his.

Phil Wagler ( is a pastor and baseball dad who takes joy in his son’s fun and seeks to build meaningful relationships with those who need to relax in the bleachers.

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