Months that start with “A” were not kind to the Los Angeles Angels during this past baseball season. The Halos got off to a dreadful start in April, starting the season 6-14, so that they were 8 games under .500 before they even got to May! Then, the bats—Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo—started heating up and the Angels started mowing down the competition behind the outstanding pitching of Jered Weaver. The Anaheim squad was making its move—and it looked like nothing could stop them. Nothing that is except another month that starts with an “A”—August. The bats cooled, the arms got tired, and the record once again started to drift down into areas they thought they wouldn’t see again this year. Throughout most of August, the Angels dropped further and further behind, in spite of all the money that had been spent to make them a World Series threat—and that slump cost them the chance to participate in the postseason. Any kind of slump is bad, but a team-wide slump is the worst.
So then, how do you pull yourself out of a slump once you find yourself there? In baseball it usually means one thing—getting back to the basics. It’s like returning to spring training, with hitting drills, infield practice, bunting and base-running exercises. The down-to-earth fundamentals of the games must once again become the starting point for climbing out of a slump. Without a return to fundamentals, the mistakes and lack of focus that tend to produce slumps never get fully addressed.
Where does that leave us as followers of Christ? Where do we turn when we find ourselves spiritually slumping into apathy, disinterest, or burnout? I think, again, we look to the basics of what it means to be pleasing to God. Throughout the Scriptures, however, this has much more to do with who we are than with what we do. The basic character qualities, the fundamentals of the heart, that must be revisited are captured brilliantly in Micah 6:8:
He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
What defines good? What does God desire to see flourishing in our lives? How about a heart devoted to justice—for God is just. How about a passion for showing mercy—for God is merciful. How about a life that lives in the presence of a high and holy God with a sense of perspective and with humility—for Christ Himself was willing to be humble and come as a servant.
When we return to the basics, we find that two things occur. First, we reconnect with the values that drew us to the Savior to begin with, and, second, we find ourselves once again living lives that display the heart of that God. There is no better place to start when we are slumping spiritually.
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain