Game one of the 2015 World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets got off to a historic start on Tuesday night when the Royals bested the Mets in the bottom of the fourteenth inning. Alcides Escobar scored on an Eric Hosmer sacrifice fly to end the game five hours and nine minutes after it began. Escobar got the scoring started in the bottom of the first inning when he roped the first pitch he saw into the gap in left-center where it bounced off the wall (and off the leg of Mets CF Yoenis Cespedes), allowing Escobar to race around the bases for the first inside-the-park home run in a World Series game since 1929.
The game was only the third to go fourteen innings in the 111-year history of the World Series. 36 players were used including thirteen pitchers who threw a combined 417 pitches. 36-year-old Chris Young, game four’s presumed starter, was the winning pitcher while 42-year-old Bartolo Colon took the loss.
It is perhaps fitting that Young finished the game started by Edinson Volquez, as the two now share far more than just their roles in helping the Royals take an early lead in this series. Shortly before the game began, reports surfaced that Volquez’s father Danio had passed away from complications related to his heart disease. Edinson’s wife asked that he not be told until he was finished pitching as she knew how much the game meant to him. Both the team and the FOX crew broadcasting the game honored her wishes. While there are conflicting reports on when Volquez learned of his father’s passing, the Royals say that it was not until he left the game after the sixth inning, at which point he was told by his family who were waiting for him in the clubhouse.
Young, who lost his father to cancer in late September, told reporters after the game, “Words can’t describe the pain I feel for Eddy tonight.” Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas can also relate after losing his mother to cancer in August. While nothing can truly take away the pain of loss following the death of a loved one, having people close by who can relate often helps. Volquez is expected to be away from the team for the next few days as he mourns with his family but, as fellow pitcher Danny Duffy told reporters after the game, “Whenever he decides to come back, we’re going to be waiting for him with open arms.”
In many ways, a professional sports team is like a family, and when your brother hurts, you all hurt with him. But can the same be said about the church? When people are hurting, do they want to come be with their brothers and sisters in Christ or do they fear that the minute they step inside those walls, they will be bombarded by platitudes and shallow empathy from those who may want to help but won’t take the time to listen long enough to find out how?
Grief is a powerful force and one that God can redeem by granting his people opportunities to be his hands and feet to those in need of support. But, as difficult as it might be, that support needs to come on the grieving person’s terms rather than our own. That means taking the time to listen and hear them out when they speak of their grief. It means allowing them to ask tough questions to which we might not know the answers. Or—and this can be even more difficult—it might mean swallowing those answers because what the other person is actually seeking is not understanding so much as the opportunity to vent.
As the author of Ecclesiastes wrote, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 4). Sometimes it can be difficult for us to accept that the time to weep and the time to mourn are necessary if we are going to eventually move on to the laughter and dancing. However, if we truly want to be of help to people going through times of grief, then we must let them go through it at their own pace and according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
So the next time you are presented with the opportunity to comfort a grieving person, start by asking God to help you understand what that person needs most and then ask him to equip you to provide it. More often than not, that will mean listening to their hurt and giving validation to their pain. It will mean swallowing those empty phrases and well-intentioned responses to questions that need not be answered. And often times it will simply mean being there for them, waiting as they grieve until they decide that the time has come when they are ready for something more.
Too often we try to be Christ’s hands and feet without also being his heart. That was not Jesus’s strategy for helping the hurting. Why should it be ours?