The (Un)believable Comeback

We all love a good comeback.

A favorite sports team, a first-generation college graduate, the former addict turned recovery counselor.

The human spirit, in its very nature, is drawn to the comeback.

In looking up definitions of the word, there is a whole host of ideas and information. But a definition that stuck out to me is one of “comeback” as a verb…

“To return to life or vitality” (Merriam Webster)

Thinking of a famous comeback by a sports team is perhaps one of the easiest and most common examples of “comeback” that come to mind. There are far more examples that play out each and every day, yes. Far more many purposeful and meaningful examples than that clutch comeback victory in extra innings.

But sometimes the most cliché – and seemingly lighthearted – examples of a comeback are those through which we can see God most clearly.

It was October 27, 2011. The Cardinals had left for Texas tied 1-1 in the World Series, they returned to St. Louis down 3-2. It was a do or die situation, a must win. If they didn’t, their season would be over. If you ask any baseball enthusiast today, Cardinals fan or not, about some of the greatest comebacks ever played out in the game… especially in the World Series? Game 6 in 2011 would be right near the top of the list. Twice the Cardinals were staring elimination in the face, and twice they overcame it.

Now, I could sit here and give the play by play of those final moments. And we will get there, at least a slightly more detailed summary, anyway. But for now, one more small piece of background.

After the Cardinals went on to win the World Series in 2011, my dad – being the ever faithful Cardinals fan – purchased game 6 on Blu Ray. The entire thing, even without commercials, is nearly four hours. While living in California it became this family joke, if we couldn’t decide what movie to watch, either my dad or I would say “WE COULD WATCH GAME 6!”, often to get an eye roll from my mother (or my father, if I was the one saying it). So when I visited my parents back in May, being so bummed that baseball was on hold due to COVID-19, I told them before I even arrived… if there’s ONE thing I want to do while in Idaho? We need to watch game 6.

So, well, we did.

And oh my goodness – was it worth the wait.

Back on that night in October, the three of us were busy earlier in the evening… meaning we were unable to watch the game from the beginning that night. So when we did, seeing it from the very first pitch all the way through? In some ways I would say it was life changing.

Baseball is great, sure, but not because of anything directly related to baseball.

Watching the game in its entirety was so moving because the entire time… my parents and I?

We knew how it ended.

Now for a team that plays well all night, doesn’t have any errors, holds a sizable lead for most of the game… knowing the outcome wouldn’t be such a big deal.

But the game that night couldn’t be FURTHER from what I just described above. At the end of the 1st inning the Cardinals held the lead. But immediately after that, they proceeded to fall behind the Rangers not once. Not twice. But THREE times. And after that first inning, they did not take the lead until they won the game in the bottom of the 11th. Not only that, but they had multiple errors throughout the night (and more that were questionable). David Freese, who by the end of the night became an icon for Cardinals baseball and a huge hometown hero… he had plays earlier in the night that undoubtedly left him wondering if a comeback was possible (more on him specifically and this night in another blog post to come!).

Now, sure, it’s just baseball. It’s just a game. But to be down THREE times, each time to only tie it again (not take the lead back)… I don’t know about anyone else, but I would be pretty discouraged. These Cardinals, though? They never gave up. They set record after record in that game, and as a result, they’ve gone down in history for one of the best World Series comebacks of all time.

But for anyone who knows me… my heart in this is about far more than baseball.

As I said, the experience of re-watching this game was so moving because we knew how it ended. So each time we saw looks of anxiety and worry on the faces of all of the Cardinal fans? Even the players? Out of humor we said a few times “it’s okay! We know how it ends, it’s gonna be okay!” But I think all three of us knew how poignant it was being able to say that now, looking back, knowing how it ends.

Shortly after coming back home, I actually watched game 6 again myself. And when I did, something the announcers said in the bottom of the 9th really stuck out to me…

“These Cardinals fans are wondering if they have one more comeback in them…”

In the Christian walk, it’s often said that our testimony is one giant, beautiful comeback story. Jesus overcoming the grave? THAT is the ultimate comeback story in all of eternity. But in all seriousness… it’s far more than just baseball that makes these two situations different.

That Thursday night in October, Cardinals fans were wondering for over four agonizing hours if their beloved Redbirds had one more comeback in them. They worried. They wondered. They waited.

Friends, brothers and sisters… I know the times we live in have been difficult. Incredibly trying and heartbreaking is an understatement. But unlike those Cardinals fans that October? With Jesus, we are never left wondering. We KNOW what happens. We know that He wins. That He already has.

As I said, every time there was a bad play or a swinging third strike, my parents and I wanted to reassure all of the fans – we know what happens! Just wait! It will all be okay!!

I know that in the moments of difficulty and pain we face each and every day, it can be so easy to forget that our Lord has already won. But with as challenging as these days are… it is absolutely imperative that we remember. I mean… there’s a reason the theme of “remember” can be found all throughout scripture.

Turning to the end of Revelation, we are given a beautiful reminder of the ultimate comeback that awaits all the believers…

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End…
Revelation 21:3-6a

Nobody knows the day or the hour, scripture promises us that.

But it also promises us that the mystery is over.

Spoiler alert… God wins.
And as Christians, we win.
Because Jesus is alive.

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