The Batter's Box: Why Success Shouldn't be Perfect

My ten-year-old daughter has played softball since she was very small.  She loves it.  Early on, her coaches recognized that she was good at the fundamentals: hitting, fielding, and throwing.  Since then, the coaches on every one of her teams have spent a lot of energy to help guide her and bring her along in all of those areas; making her a better player each  season.  Recently, she made the jump from minor league to major league ball.  The majors consist of a wide variety of age groups, and she is on the young end.  The big fish now finds herself in a new (and much larger) pond.  Most of the girls are twice her size and three times as aggressive on the field.  In other words, she has a few things to learn in order to succeed in her new environment.  It didn't help that she was hit by a pitch her very first time at bat, and at her very first game.  It has been an uphill battle helping her to stay in the batter's box for each pitch.  The subsequent weeks after being hit, she would literally "flee" from home base as soon as the pitcher would let go of the ball.  She was scared to death.  As parents, we then struggled with whether or not to push her to overcome this fear, or allow her to quit.  We opted to see if she would someday return to the batter's box without this same hesitation that seemed to rule her life.  She agreed that she didn't want to quit.  We were very proud.    

While thinking about all of this, I couldn't help but make some comparisons regarding how many of us struggle with our Spiritual faith.  After all, if the realm of "active Christianity" could be considered a baseball diamond, then it seems to me that sometimes it would just be easier to sit in the bleachers.  Being active isn't all it's cracked up to be.  We get tired sometimes.  Can't we watch the other people compete?  Who wants to venture into the batter's box when you run the risk of getting hit?  Couldn't I just ebb along like the guy who has had a bit too much to drink, and lets all the other baseball parents know just how much better of an umpire he would make?  But the game must go on.  First inning ... batter up.

If we are honest - at least in so much as we can admit to when no one else is around - I think most of us struggle with what we are supposed to do in life.  If your own journey has taken you somewhere in the vicinity of the baseball diamond metaphor, then you know that this life has something to do with faith.  Which dugout each of us emerges from or which team we play for may vary, but the entity running the scoreboard is always the same.  God never changes.  How much (or how often) am I supposed to follow God?  What does this look like?  What in the world does it mean to be a "good Christian."  And why is it that every time I think I've met someone who is pious beyond reproach: they also fall short of my expectations in some way.  The grand questions continue to loom.  How much repentance is enough?  Does God actually mean what He says in the Bible when we read that we are saved by grace through faith, and not by our own doing?  Can't I just watch the batter's box from a safe distance?

I wonder what damage has been done to believer and non-believer alike, when the answers to these questions pour out of someone with an angry heart or a latent agenda.  I remember one gentleman in particular who used to tell people that they weren't going to Heaven because they weren't baptized in a baptismal pool (full immersion).  Someone should probably notify the Pope that he isn't saved, I suppose.  I believe it is a very necessary thing that churches (and the people in them) allow those who are aspiring to venture out onto the baseball diamond a chance to root around and ask questions ... to kick the tires a bit.  Allow them to count the costs regarding what it really takes to stand in the batter's box during each pitch.  People who aren't allowed to ask questions about belief systems will ask them anyway.  They will simply look around for whatever venue happens to suit their hearts, or worse yet, they will find anyone who will listen (regardless of their theology).  Because if we are talking about baseball diamonds here, we want to make sure that our teammates are at least in the correct bracket or league.  The theology matters.

If we are struggling with our faith from time to time, then what is to be done?  Do we set up an appointment with the pastor or priest?  Do we search out a church until we find the best fit?  Do we leave church all together (ie: sitting in the bleachers)?  I have a feeling the answer to this question lies more in the nature of the player who is approaching the batter's box than it does the box itself.  And it is here where I must take notes from a ten-year-old.  Because she was frightened, nervous, and uncertain ... but still she approached the batter's box.  Helmet on and bat held tightly.  Maybe crying a little bit, it's hard to see from the stands.  Probably hoping that all eyes aren't fixed only on her, but needing certain eyes to be fixed nonetheless.  The pitch may not be perfect, maybe she swings too soon or too late.  Never mind.  It isn't the approach that matters most to the one keeping score.  It is His image as reflected in the little girl that He cares about.  How pure it is, how much (and to what degree) it is connected to Himself.  Because the fact of the matter is, the scorekeeper doesn't keep score through a point system (no matter how much some of us want Him to).  The person in the batter's box has already won, simply because she showed up.  Back seat drivers and pseudo-umpires on the other side of the fence are just so many empty words.  What matters is whether or not we suit up and grab the bat.  It's about getting off the bleachers, and actively cultivating our faith walk.

As I write this, I am a happy Dad.  My daughter's last game demonstrated that she is winning against her fear.  Many have helped her in this journey, from coaches to grandparents.  But ultimately the choice was up to my daughter, and no one else.  She was forced to deal with the following dilemma (as we all are): do I give up and quit, or do I press on?  I am fairly confidant that we are supposed to press on.  Throw out the idea of perfection though.  Only God is perfect.  Fortunately for us, He is not obsessed with our character flaws.  But, rather how much we respond to the goodness that He has put into us already.  Do we reflect Him well?  Is that reflection strong?  Can others see it in us?  Do we decide to keep pressing on even though it can be confusing?  

I think that we are supposed to keep suiting up and grabbing our bat and helmet.  Don't worry about people that tell you that your faith walk isn't good enough (to whom are they comparing us to anyway?).  Instead, keep your eyes fixed on the baseball diamond.  At some point for all of us, the confusion will end and the struggles that we consider so formidable right now will give way to a direct and unencumbered connection between ourselves and the God who loves us so desperately.  I am grateful He has given us pointers along the way.  We have the Jesus of the Bible, we have the existence of the Christian church, and most importantly - we have the joy associated with overcoming bad pitches conjoined with the truth that it's okay if we swing the bat imperfectly.  Just as long as in some way, shape, or form ... we keep swinging.  Remember that advancement in the spiritual realm (sanctification) isn't always an upward arching line on a graph or chart.  It can be up and down, but the key is not to discard the uniform.   


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Comments

  1. Lacinda McClendonMay 21, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    Very well said, Jon.

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