Have you ever had a spiritual experience? An experience that transcends time and space and leaves you feeling as if you have been in the presence of something holy or greater than you in that particular moment. Some might use religious language to describe this. Many more of us, I imagine, would say that these experiences have happened outside of a formal religious context, even if we consider ourselves religious. Let me share a recent one from my own life.
A few weeks ago, following a short travel program with students, I had the privilege of two extra days on my own in New York City. I visited with friends, went to a play, and ate delicious food, but the highlight was my first visit to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
I love baseball, and I have been to a number of games at stadiums around the country, mostly in Atlanta. Having the opportunity to see the Bronx Bombers play, however, carried deeper meaning for me than many of the other baseball games I have seen.
My father, Phil, spent much of my childhood talking about the New York Yankees. A baseball player himself in high school, he grew up in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s when the Yankees often ruled the diamond. He talked about players from the past like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and, of course, the players from his childhood and teenage years such as Maris, Mantle, Di Maggio, and Berra. Those players forever shaped his love of the game, thus shaping my own love of baseball.
My dad died in March of 2008, and in his sixty-five years, he never made it to see the Yankees play in person. As I sat in the ballpark thinking of how much he would have loved sitting in that stadium and seeing the many tributes to the old stadium and past players, I also could not have ever imagined him being there. He was not interested in flying, and I did not have the wherewithal when he was alive to take on driving him to New York. Still, I could feel him sitting beside me that day, and that was a holy moment.
In the last three years before he died, with the last year being the hardest in terms of his health, we traveled to Atlanta together to see the Braves play. It had been a long time since he had been to a baseball game, and we had never done this on our own before. I remember the last game together and how hard it was for him to be mobile. I left him in his seat to get a hot dog and a coke, and when I came back down the stairs, the crowd was in the middle of doing the wave. Struggling to stand, I saw the back of my dad, joining in the fun. When I returned to my seat, he was sitting there breathing hard but grinning from ear to ear in a way that I had not seen in a long while. That was a holy moment too.
I believe moments like these happen more often than we think but require us to be paying attention. These glimpses of grace help us remember those who have gone on before and what they taught us. They also help us live in the present moment and honor the person or situation immediately in front of us. Glimpses of grace orient us to a life where we know that each person, creature, and the created order are sacred.
Today is Father’s Day. I hope you will celebrate those who have been a father or like a father to you. If you are a father or a father-like figure, I hope you will cherish those whom you parent. Keep your eyes open for glimpses of grace today and all days.
The Rev. Dr. Lyn Pace is the college chaplain at Oxford College of Emory University