This has been a hard year to be a Tampa Bay Rays fan.
As it stands now, the Rays "boast" the worst record in Major League Baseball, a far cry from the possible World Series run many considered.
Last week, I sunk $45 to watch the Rays get shut out again with my 3- and 6-year-old children.
I'm done forking over any dough this year at Tropicana Field.
But the Rays' losing ways have inspired a little "soul searching."
Am I really a fan? Do I really love the Rays?
Now that I'm accustomed to their success, I really have to ask the question: "Do I really love them, or do I just like the way they make me feel when they win?"
Honestly, I've begun to consider if that's all there is to it.
If a "fan" stops watching, supporting, talking about, reading up on his favorite team because they have performed poorly, he never really loved the team. He just loved the way that team made him feel.
It felt good to win.
It felt good to pull for a contender.
The other party simply became a means to an end.
When that feeling ended, so did one's "love."
But is that really love? Where I come from, we call that manipulation.
Disney seems to have adopted a more robust picture of love. In the movie "Frozen," one character espouses love as seeking the good of another. The manipulating antagonist explained to the princess that her "love" towards him was simply self-seeking and self-fulfilling. She simply liked the way he made her feel. That was it.
Losing can be a gift in that it exposes our motivations.
Was I supporting the team or simply supporting myself?
In relationships, "losing," aka being let down, can actually function the same way.
Am I here to give love, or simply to receive it?
Now that I no longer receive a feeling from my friend, my spouse, my church, or even my city, will I run out and leave it/them all behind?
If I am primarily about a feeling, when that feeling is not met, I will leave.
And I will baptize it by saying: "So and so did not love me."
And I may be right. But more than likely you never really loved it/them either.
They just stopped meeting your needs. aka they stopped making you feel good about yourself.
But if love is primarily about the other, then it might not be a good idea to be so quick to run.
The story of Christianity reveals a God who runs after unlovely people.
Not really good people, but really bad people. When that truth becomes rooted deep in one's heart, it motivates him to love as opposed to manipulate. Because in the end, no matter how your friend, spouse, family, church has failed you, the motivation to stay and love never leaves.
My wife and I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary Thursday. If our motivation to love one another remains tethered to that cross where our Savior died, we'll celebrate many more.
Of course there is a time to run from deeply committed relationships (the Bible explains such parameters), but more often than not, we just run because we've lost the loving feeling. Which I'm arguing, really isn't love at all.
My wife and I don't agree on everything, but we do know what love is. Showing it to each other when each of us don't necessarily deserve it is tough. But we have to know what love is and isn't. And that's a start.
Pastor Geoff Henderson, Harbor Community Church, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. or go to Harborcommunitychurch.org or inthekeyofh.com. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Herald written by local clergy members.