Curses and the Red Sox

Dear Reader,

I am not a big baseball fan though if I have to pick I root for the Red Sox (and against the Yankees). My kids have the ubiquitous blue, well-worn Sox caps. In 2004, we were living just north of Boston when the curse was finally broken. For 86 years the Sox had not won a championship. They had come close, very close, but it had never happened. Fans were convinced the team was cursed. Now I haven’t read up on the psychology of being a sports fan, but trust me it must be a huge field of study. If ever there were fans who felt every up and down of their team’s history, who took every win or loss personally, it is Red Sox fans. They are dedicated. If their team was cursed, they were cursed. And they felt it. And then came 2004, and the Sox won the Series. The curse was over. In the Boston area, you could feel it in the air. First there was euphoria. Utter shock and utter joy at once.

Then we had to move on though. And that was the tough part. What comes after being cursed? What happens when the curse is lifted? Well, in the case of the Red Sox fans, talk radio buzzes like crazy. If we (and of course the Sox fans here identify completely with their team) are no longer the cursed team, who are we? Are we winners? Will we continue to be winners? So much of the fans’ identity and mindset was caught up in the idea that they (through their team) were good, really good, but doomed to failure. But if that is no longer true, what is their identity?

Being released from a curse can be as hard as being cursed. We don’t know how to deal with it. We need a new identity, a whole new way of thinking of ourselves, and we don’t know where to begin. All of us human beings begin under a curse, the curse of sin and death. By God’s grace through faith in Christ, we may be released from that curse. But like those poor Red Sox fans, sometimes we just don’t know what to do with ourselves once we are no longer cursed. Yes, there is an initial euphoria, a feeling of joy as being freed from a burden. Often the burden is something we were so used to that we no longer even felt it there. But then it is lifted and we feel freedom. And then quickly reality sets in. “Real life” must be dealt with. How do we face it now? Sometimes we gave defined ourselves by our sins and if we are to let them go, we no longer know who we are. We have the same relationships  but we are different people.

Imagine carrying a heavy pack on your back for a long distance. At first you feel its weight, but over time your back bends. You adjust to accomodate the weight. You no longer feel it there, or maybe you just get used to living in the pain of it. Then one day the burden is lifted. There is shock at first, You had almost forgotten the weight was there. You are surprised to lose it. And there is joy. At first. But then you realize you have to keep walking. And you are not sure how to do it. You had unconsciously shifted your center of gravity under the weight. You learned to lean and carry yourself differently. Now that the weight is lifted you have to relearn how to walk without it. For some perhaps, their backs have become so twisted under the weight that they can no longer straighten up. They walk as if they still have the weight even though it has been removed. Others go the other way. They jerk back, so glad to be able to straighten their backs that they bend too much the other way. They end up almost tilting over backwards.

It is good to be freed from a curse. But sometimes it is hard too. It is an adjustment, It requires a new identity. WE must learn to redefine ourselves. It is too easy to be like the Israelites wanting to go back to the Egypt they know rather than on through the desert to the Promised Land that is unknown. We may stay locked in our own self-imposed prisons, saying that the release wasa  fluke and refusing to admit that we are now free. We may jerk the other direction and think that now we are always winners, free to do whatever we like. Finding the right balance is hard.



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