There is something humbling about talking to the friends who have known you for a long time, through all your struggles and successes, highs and lows, and still love you anyway. For me, a lot of my true friends are guys who still talk to me now, even though they were with me….way back….when I played little league baseball. Those guys saw me at my worst and stuck around to see me grow.
I love baseball and would like to think I was good at it. Every kid wants to make the diving catch, hit the home run, and pitch the perfect game. My reality in little league was a bit different. I remember getting up to the plate, adjusting my helmet, peering into the pitcher’s eyes, and scanning the field to see the defense and spot where I wanted the ball to go. However, after the preparation, I struggled with the follow through. This was my routine, and it didn’t change. However, that was pretty much all I did. Each time, everything was the same. I had a lot of hits that season. However, when I say ‘hits’, I mean I was hit…by the ball. I got hit by a pitch 9 times in 8 games that season. I got hit in the shoulders, the arms, the hips, the legs, and even the ankles. As a matter of fact, the only place I didn’t get hit was the bat. But that all changed in the last game of the season. I was feeling pretty down about my lack of production so far in the season, and had gathered quite a bit of resentment towards that speeding little ball.
So there I was, the night of our last game. We were up by a few runs late in the game and I was going up for my last at-bat. My first few at-bats had followed the same routine of confidently strutting out to the plate, taking my stance, and then shivering with fear until I heard “STRIKE 3!” and I could go back to the safety of the dugout. But this time, I was convicted. I scan the field and am not surprised to see the defense giving me very little attention. The second baseman was reading Harry Potter and the shortstop was off at the concession stand. And the left fielder….who knows? They turned off the lights in the outfield while I was at bat to save on electricity. None of that mattered to me. I was done letting life pass me by. No matter where this ball went, I was swinging. Luckily for me, the pitcher wound up, released, and there it was…the perfect pitch. I tightened my knuckles, pivoted and brought the bat around. WHACK! Well, I suppose a more accurate sound would be TING! I just skimmed it with the bottom of the bat. But that was sufficient, as it trickled down the field to the left. Fortunately, the third baseman was on his Gameboy and took a while to come back to Earth. Thus I arrived – out of breath, but safe and sound at first base. First base…ah, glorious. My first time on first base without wincing in pain from being drilled by a fastball. And I don’t care if everyone in the stands thought it was someone else wearing my jersey. I knew that I had tried and succeeded. I began to think about all the pitches that were thrown to me, and how much my team could have benefited if I would have had courage to swing earlier in the season.
The truth is, I pass up on a lot of opportunities that would help me and my community. Opportunities to grow in holiness, stretch myself, serve others, and move forward in faith. When we cheat ourselves of opportunities to grow, we also cheat all those around us. When we refuse to pray, we are refusing to make that effort to draw deeper into the heart of Christ, but we are also refusing to offer things up for those we love. We are the Body of Christ. We are a team. Advance in faith, hope and love. Those who you connect with, those who you pray for, and people around the world who you don’t even know will all be strengthened by it. I’ve been learning a lot about the power of intercessory prayer. Think of the scripture passage where Jesus is preaching in the house and it’s packed. The guys have a crippled friend who needs healing. They can’t get him in through the front door, but they so desperately want him to meet Jesus and be healed, that they lower him through the roof! Scripture says that Jesus saw THEIR faith and therefore had mercy on the crippled man, forgiving his sins and healing him. Wow! We need to be willing to carry our friends to the Lord. We need to recognize the universal cry of all of our hearts for the Lord. Brothers and sisters, your prayers, words, and actions do have an effect on the Body of Christ, the church. It’s not always in the big shows of affection or faith. We are called to humbly love and serve, especially when no one is watching us or praising us. I’m praying for you, please pray for me. When those pitches, those opportunities for holiness come towards you, swing for the fences.