So, after 108 years of frustration and failure, disappointment and despair, the Cubs finally won the World Series. That seems like a long time – and in normal human terms, I suppose it is. The last time they won it all Samuel Clemens was in his early seventies. Winston Churchill was thirty-four years old. Babe Ruth was just thirteen. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand still reigned over the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The events leading up to the start of World War One were just rumblings in the background. As the TV reminded us of all the world-changing events that hadn’t happened the last time the Cubs were victorious, I couldn’t help thinking that our perspective on human history is woefully limited.
Generations of Cubs fans have asked themselves how long they would have to wait. It seemed as though the franchise was cursed. How unfair it seemed to the faithful. That’s a perspective with which God’s people are quite familiar. “How long, O Lord, how long?” is not only the (former) cry of Chicago sports fans, but is one of the central questions of our faith. From Exodus to Revelation, biblical writers have asked over and over again when it would be that God will deliver the people from injustice, oppression, suffering and struggle. The Psalms overflow with the pain of waiting.
Of course there are also stories of liberation and healing, restoration and hope! We don’t know exactly how long it was that the Hebrew people were enslaved in Egypt, but their cries for deliverance were heard by God and they were set free. They wandered for forty years in the wilderness, and even when they got to the promised land it didn’t exactly go the way they’d hoped. There were times of exaltation and joy in those next years, as well as of disappointment and devastation. King David sat on the throne for about forty years, and Solomon for another forty. The decades that followed were anything but easy, and the exile in Babylon lasted longer than either of the two kings’ reigns.
So the question “How long?” is still with us. Psalm 90 offers the thought that a thousand years in God’s sight are like yesterday after it is gone. It reminds us that we mortals don’t get to see how things look from the perspective of eternity. We may go a long time before we ever know what God has in mind, or when it will come to be. But every once in a while, and this time in the unlikely form of a baseball championship, we catch a glimpse. This year Cubs fans saw the fulfillment of one of their deepest hopes. Next year, who knows?
Grace and peace,