I recently posted about how my son’s recent home run illuminated for me the spiritual sacrifice we must make to take advantage of our opportunity to go to Heaven.
I have found that my children’s experience have been a great teacher of the faith to me. Another such baseball/God lesson came two years ago in February 2009 when my son was younger and smaller. I had posted this on my since defunct personal blog, but will repost here, slightly edited for length.
God Dreams Big
One of the things I think we most struggle with is trusting in God with those areas of our life that matter the most. A job interview, a relationship or our personal aspirations are just a few examples. We just can’t seem to let go of our Free Will when it comes to the most important things in our lives. We think we have the perfect answer, the best solution, the most prepared outcome.
And we are wrong.
For example… My son has been involved in baseball since he was under two years of age. He’s a gifted kid. He’s an exceptional baseball player.
He would sit in my lap as a toddler and watch a three hour baseball game without fidgeting. He would ask questions about the rules and about the players. When teams scored runs I used that to help him learn how to add and we used the names of the teams to help him learn how to read.
He taught himself the basics of throwing and taught himself how to switch hit. He’s turned into quite the ball player. He’s been blessed to have had a great amount of success on the baseball diamond. Last year he once struck out 15 of 18 batters as a pitcher. He’s been on three all-star teams and almost won a championship.
When he was 12 he joined a travel team where the competition was far more talented than he was used to facing. My son, like the rest of the team, struggled in the beginning. The pitchers threw harder and threw curve balls. The bases were farther apart and the throws harder to make. As a pitcher there was so much more to think about… it was real baseball and it was tough.
My son’s biggest problem was fear.
This showed itself in the batters box. When hitting he struggled remaining relaxed and focused. He would put the pressure of his past failings on his shoulders before ever stepping into the batters box. A recipe for failure.
Over the course of the season he’s moved lower and lower in the batting order as his performance at the plate continued to slide. He had no confidence and we were running out of ways to approach correcting it.
One practice my son was exceptionally tired and during batting practice Gabe smacked the ball around the field from both sides of the plate with amazing consistency and power. At one point he almost hit a home run.
On the drive home I asked him what the difference was between his hitting in the game and at practice. He said at practice he was so tired he couldn’t think. He just hit.
That inspired me. And we came up with a new plan.
I told him that he needs to offer his at-bats up to God. He has to let the Lord’s will be done instead of trying to succeed on his own. He needed to let the Lord guide him. I told him to rely on the gifts God had given him and let his faith replace his fear.
Sunday morning the travel team started playing in the finals of the tourney. Two wins and our team would win the championship for our level.
The first at-bat, my son hit the ball really hard, but directly to the third baseman and was thrown out at first base. I was happy, though. It was the best contact he had made in months. Afterwards he smiled from the dugout and gave me a thumbs up.
His second at-bat he stepped into the batters box with men on second and third. The pressure was on.
In an earlier game he had stepped up to the plate with bases loaded and struck out. I was afraid he would take the pressure of that and previous other failures and allow it to overwhelm him again.
Fortunately, God had bigger plans.
Before entering the batters box I could see him close his eyes and take a deep breath. He relaxed and focused on the pitcher. A few moments later the pitcher threw an inside fastball and my son quickly swung. The ball exploded off the bat. All of the parents in the stands reacted with immediate hoops and hollers. The left fielder quickly turned and chased after the ball as it hit the ground and bounced against the fence. Two runs scored and Gabe raced into third base for a triple.
The third base coach patted him on the helmet and my son’s face beamed with a smile that spread from ear-to-ear. In between innings he motioned for me to come over to the dugout. He said “I was so relaxed! I just asked the Lord to let his Will be done and just focused on the ball!”
And focus he did.
In those two final games my son batted 4 – 6 with two triples, a double and a single with three RBIs. And, best of all, his travel team won the championship.
In God’s usual sense of humor, I didn’t get a chance to video tape any of the hits. I had to keep the scorebook instead. After video taping four months of failures I couldn’t capture his success on video. God can be funny that way.
After the game the manager mentioned that my son, for his age and weight, could not have hit that ball to left field any farther.
I knew that we were playing on very large fields… fields substantially larger than our Little League fields. I asked them how far they thought he hit the ball. They guessed at somewhere between 250 – 275 feet. To put that in perspective, our Little League fields are 200 ft.
He had hit a monster shot.
On the drive home my son and I discussed the day. He talked about praying, relying on the Lord’s Will and trusting in him.
I asked my son, “what did you hope would have been the best thing you could have done today in the batters box?” He thought about it for a minute and replied, “One really good hit. That’s all. A single. Just not striking out.” “Me too,” I agreed.
I smiled and realized that if we had relied on the narrow focus of our Will, the most we had hoped for was a single. When we put our goals in God’s hands, with his Will, my son was able to achieve things far greater than we could have imagined.
It was a good lesson for my son. A reaffirmation of his faith.
God’s dreams for us will take us places far more gratifying and rewarding than anything we could ever imagine on our own.
And that’s a good lesson for us all.