What could Bibles and baseball possibly have in common? They seem to be polar opposites – totally incompatible with one another. But are they?
I can remember being nine years old, and desperately wanting to fit in with the other girls in my gymnastics class. I remember the mortification I felt when the coach demanded I reveal my weight in front of everyone. When I lied and told him seventy pounds, he scanned me up and down, his disgusted look revealing his skepticism. “You need to drop some weight if you want to be a gymnast,” was his emotionless response.
I quit gymnastics shortly after that conversation and moved onto a stint in Little League softball. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I don’t remember much from the single season I played, other than my dad showing up drunk to one of my games and being forced to overhear the coaches whispering about his condition.
I wasn’t a hot commodity on the ball field or in the gym for three decades of my life, so I have watched with pride as each of my daughters has experimented with various sports and activities. My oldest child’s passion was speech and debate, and though she’s an adult now, I will never forget the thrill of watching her compete in a speech tournament and staring with wide-eyed wonder as she performed a 15-minute skit from memory. What made it especially poignant was that prior to finding speech, she had failed to make both the volleyball and cheerleading teams. As she dealt with the rejection, she didn’t know God was about to lead her into something perfect. She’d spend six years competing, gathering countless trophies, and making incredible memories.
My middle daughter has thrived in gymnastics with a love of flips and tumbling, as well as recreational dance. This past weekend, I eagerly attended the annual recital that had returned to a normal event after being sidelined by COVID-19 last year. I couldn’t wait to see my daughter’s dance performance, but as the lights dimmed and the dancers took the stage, my discontent grew.
Many of the performances by the older competitive girls – and even some by younger tweens – were disturbing and showcased very skimpy costumes with suggestive moves and song lyrics. I sat in the dark, feeling conflicted, and as I glanced around at the rest of the audience, it reminded me of a scene out of the Pixar movie Wall-E. The little beings in that show are completely clueless about their own sloth–like existence, so desensitized they’ll go along with just about anything.
The people around me cheered for the performers, drank wine and munched popcorn as they hooted and hollered for each dance number. I glanced at the middle-aged dad to my left and the elderly grandma to my right. Were they cool with this? I wondered. If anyone was uncomfortable, they certainly weren’t showing it. I started to question whether it was right to support my daughter in this type of endeavor.
Struck by the difficult juxtaposition of living in the world, I felt God speaking to me, “You’re not of this world, and that is why you are bothered.” Part of me wished I could stay in the dark like the others who didn’t appear affected, that I could remain blind and insulated like the Wall-E people.
I haven’t fit in for most of my life, but that’s the way God likes it. There in the dark auditorium, He tried to help me understand that I should not expect to be in any sort of alignment with the world.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17
My youngest daughter has turned into a softball prodigy, and years of games have passed in the blink of an eye. Not long ago, our only worry was selecting the right treats to bring to the field, but she has since graduated to a fast pitch traveling team. The stakes are much higher and the demands greater. During the spring and fall seasons, we seem to live and breathe softball.
Where is Jesus in this?
“Ah, lighten up,” I can imagine some saying. “Playing sports is good for kids.” Sure it is. Still, it’s a constant battle, weighing the things of this world – however great and valuable they may seem to be – against how God wishes my family and I spend our moments.
A couple of tournament weekends have landed on Sundays, pushing church off to the side. My discontent is not just about missing service, it is about making something an idol – sports, athleticism, even our own kids – and this is the delicate balance we must strike. I want to help them achieve every good thing just as God the Father wants the same for each of His children, but I want nothing to go before Him. Sounds like a tall task while raising a couple of tweens, but even in my struggle I know I can trust the Lord to show me the way. He won’t leave me hanging.
My most important job as a parent goes way beyond honing the fastest pitch or making sure the kids get the hottest new gadget. I want JESUS to be their first love. I want them to pursue Him for the righteous King that He is and to grow into strong women who put Him first. No hobby, person, or goal should ever take the place of their Lord and Savior, the only one who can truly meet their every need. For this to have any chance of happening, I need to model it myself.
I have started a new prayer each day: “Take me where you want me to go, let me meet who you want me to meet, tell me what you want me to say, and let me partner with you in every way.”
I say that prayer, and I trust in faith Jesus is in agreement. If I will only allow him to, He will change people in my life who need changing, He will convict where conviction is needed. He will expose sin, He will move. All without any assistance from me.
Maybe God wants me on the ball field some Sunday mornings? Maybe I could hold a church service of my own near the dugout where the parents congregate, Bible in hand? Why not? My pastor is always telling us we don’t need to go to church to get blessed or cleansed by a pastor, and we don’t need to drop our kids off at church to find deliverance or discipleship. WE CAN ASK GOD FOR IT OURSELVES. As Holy Spirit-filled believers, we have that authority!
The physical church is especially important, and we need other believers alongside us. I cherish gathering with my Christian brothers and sisters and I do not like to miss a service. Still, when push comes to shove, I can BE the church wherever I go! As long as I show love and genuineness, God will put the right people in my path.
Show don’t tell. I can show others the way to the Father through my actions. Bibles and ballfields may seem like strange bedfellows to the world, but they’re not to Jesus. He can use both to perform miracles. I will show my children in every way possible that you will never go wrong when you put Jesus first.
“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33