Most remember that Kevin Costner made two baseball movies – Field of Dreams and Bull Durham – but he also made a third entitled For Love of the Game. In this 1999 flick, Costner plays Billy Chapel, a veteran pitcher playing the last game of his career. During the game, which takes place in a not-so-friendly Yankees Stadium, Chapel steps to the mound to face the first batter. Behind the plate, angry New Yorkers shout and scream obscenities at the 40-year old pitcher, even yelling into bullhorns – enough raucous to distract the most seasoned athlete.
At that moment, as the movie takes us into the pitcher’s mind, Chapel collects himself and repeats what seems to be a well-used mantra, “Clear the mechanism.” Right then, the crowd goes completely silent and even becomes a blur; the only thing in focus is the man at-bat, the task at-hand. “Just you and me,” Chapel says, just before he delivers a fastball right by the helpless batter. In the middle of our stressful day, wouldn’t it be helpful if we could “clear the mechanism,” eliminate all distractions, and focus on what matters?
If we dig into the New Testament, Jesus was the best at clearing the mechanism. When Jesus teaches the disciples to pray, he offers the ultimate way to eliminate distraction through prayer. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (vv. 9-10) The perfect prayer begins with 22 words that aren’t about us, but about God, His character, and His supremacy – what a way to quiet the most intense moment! Actually, this is what Jesus does praying that difficult prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, with distraction and sorrow pressing in, he cleared the mechanism by refusing his own will and saying, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)
All throughout his ministry, Jesus encourages a continual focus on the Father as a way to drown-out anxiety. In Luke 10, when Martha is busy rushing around, putting dinner together while Mary is fixed on Jesus, our Lord encourages Martha to clear the mechanism by saying, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (vv. 41-42) When life gets chaotic, the to-do list seems insurmountable, and we’re not sure where to apply our focus, let’s clear the mechanism by setting our heart on our heavenly Father.
Focusing on God during stressful moments isn’t merely a principle from a psychology textbook; a heart set on God is aligning us with our true purpose of living for God. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Today, each of us stands atop the pitcher’s mound, just like Billy Chapel, and the enemy, the world, and even our own hearts are working to make it impossible to throw a strike. Only the power and purpose of the living God is strong enough to deafen these loud opponents.
Clear the mechanism and “seek first the kingdom of God…” (Matthew 6:33)