A few weeks ago, my roommate and I checked off the last item of our summer bucket list: attend a baseball game. We purchased lawn seats last minute and were delighted to lay our picnic blanket a short leap from the Dippin’ Dots stand. (Because nothing says America’s favorite pastime like millions of mini futuristic ice cream pieces, am I right?)
However, we were less delighted to find the lawn section also hosted millions of mini fussy people— unattended children, wiggly toddlers, and sassy preteens. Inning by inning, it felt like we were the only ones on the lawn who were actually there to watch the game.
During the seventh-inning stretch, one restless boy stood up with determination to start “the wave.” His friends enthusiastically joined him, cheering on our section to stand up and slowly raise our arms, their faces exploding with joy as we obliged. “Again!” they chanted. “3,2,1…” they instructed, as the tide swelled over the picnic-blanket-filled lawn.
The wave would begin from our fingertips, and we’d watch it linger through the sections closest to us, then break off. Maybe it would flow through a few more spectators with each attempt, but we all knew the hope of making it all the way around the ballpark was lofty at best.
As the players resumed their positions, we resumed our own and the kids yelled, “One more time!” with even wrigglier anticipation. So, one more time, we began the wave in our section, then pointed our noses to the ground and returned to our picnic blankets. Looking up, we noticed hands raise and lower in the section across the ballpark. Could it be the wave made it all the way around? Certainly not.
Too shocked to continue its swell, the kids cheered in disbelief as an out-of-breath man sprinted through our section to distribute high-fives. It was the boy’s dad, returning from the other end of the park. Unbeknownst to us, he’d run a lap around the stands, making sure the wave made it full-circle.
Our God, Creator and continuer of grace, does the exact same thing. Paul is writing a joy letter to the Philippians, distributing ministry high-fives to his brothers and sisters in the gospel and underlining a clear message: Keep going.
We must keep Paul’s circumstances in mind when we read these words, because this is no postcard from bliss. Paul isn’t away on vacation tanning his limbs and eating Cracker Jacks, asking his co-laborers in Christ to keep doing the heavy lifting. He’s facing the trial of imprisonment, knee-deep in the worst of the worst, yet he reports his encounters with Christ with joy. Keep going, he conveys, because God is working, even in the depths of darkness.
The circumstances that separated Paul from the world strengthened his bond with the Body of Christ.
Grace takes our isolation and replaces it with identity. Truth calls us to look around and see our place in a lineage of believers and partners in grace (Hebrews 11). We stand upon the foundation of faith (1 Corinthians 3:11), responding to the grace that flows from His mercy to our fingertips and extends through the arms of the Church. All the while, His goodness runs freely and uninterrupted.
Keep going, friends. Keep going.