All things are possible with God.” Jesus
“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.” Lebron
This has been an incredible year for me. On June 9, I turned 60 years old. In celebration of my birth, the CAVS won their first NBA championship ten days later. They were down three games to one but found a way to win it all anyway. Less than three weeks after that, our grandson Joseph was born. And the Indians have done their part by winning their way into their first World Series since 1997. You would have to say that I am on a roll.
When I was a younger man, I didn’t believe that I would reach 60. I don’t think I was fatalistic but 60 seemed impossibly old – an age for other people but not for me. And I also didn’t think I would be a grandfather either. As I grew older and those things became more likely, the chance that any Cleveland sports team might win a championship in my lifetime seemed to become more remote. I witnessed in person “The Drive” Game in January of 1987 when the Browns lost to the Bronco’s and have caught my share of CAVS playoff games over the years. I have seen Lebron James arrive in Cleveland, leave Cleveland, and return once again. Until June of 2016, I saw Cleveland teams get close now and again but always come up short.
I accepted getting close occasionally yet losing as part of the fabric of Northeast Ohio culture, and I was ok with it. So I was as stunned as anyone on the planet when the final seconds of the NBA championship game ran out and the CAVS actually won. Like many Cleveland fans, I looked at the screen expecting a late call, a disqualification, or Lucy pulling the football away from a charging Charlie Brown. It just didn’t seem possible. The seeming impossible actually happened.
I have been around long enough to know that there are many more important things than professional sports teams. Each week our prayer team lifts up people and situations that couldn’t be more serious. A winning or losing sports team can seem pretty trivial. And I have noticed that many of my daily concerns haven’t changed a whole lot since the CAVS won, and my life is unlikely to be transformed by an Indians World Series win either.
But the success of these teams has made daily life in this part of the world just a little bit sweeter. Just a bit.
When Lebron James was returning to Cleveland a few years ago, he was quoted in Sports Illustrated as saying: “In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.” It was his way of saying that winning a championship was not guaranteed and was bound to be difficult to achieve. And he was right.
The CAVS worked hard to win that championship, but I didn’t do a thing except show up at a playoff game against Toronto and yell until I was hoarse. We were so far away from the court that I don’t think Lebron heard us.
So it is accurate to say that for me – and for just about every Northeast Ohio resident – the championship could only be described as a gift – a gift to us earned by the effort and determination of others. I didn’t work for it. I didn’t earn it. Yet it was given to me just the same.
There is certainly a value to setting a goal and working towards it. We can achieve many good things in life if we work hard enough. Yet some of the best things in life cannot be earned no matter how much we try. We can only receive them as a gift.
We are offered the gift of salvation and the forgiveness of our sins, and there is absolutely nothing we can do to earn it. No good works will suffice. Instead it is the work of Jesus, his willingness to die for us on the cross, that earns our freedom for us. We didn’t do anything to deserve it.
Even at the advanced age of 60, I still have some things I am working for, but I am so grateful for the blessings and gifts that have come into my life because of the hard work and efforts of others. Family (including grandchildren), love, and friends are among the best gifts that I have even received. I don’t deserve them, but I cherish and savor them just the same.
The Cubs haven’t won a World Series title in 108 years, and the Indians last won in 1948. Unless the World Series ends in a tie, one team’s fans will soon be euphoric and the others disappointed. I hope that the gift of a World Championship comes to Cleveland once again, but I can’t say that we deserve it more than Cubs fans do. And I tend to think that God won’t intervene in the outcome no matter how many prayers are lifted up by faithful fans.
But, as I said before, I am on a roll. I have seen things this year I never thought I would experience. And the year – and the baseball season – isn’t over just yet. I am beginning to believe that just about anything is possible.