Check out our new women's blog, featuring Teresa Bell Kindred. You can find it online here: http://akindredheart.com. You can also follow Kelly Breece on her blog found here: http://morning-cup.blogspot.com
The sun was setting on a March evening leaving a chill in the air. It was the last practice before the first game. A single lamppost shined on each boy at bat. The coaches pitched to each player until they'd had a chance to hit the ball a few times each. All the other teammates had had their turns; now, they stood in the field and watched as Shane stepped up to the plate. Would it be just like the other practices?
The pitch flew ... swing ... a second ... a third ... another swing ... nothing. Each pitch that sailed past his bat made it harder and harder for him to raise it up to try again. He wanted to lay it down and walk away. He wanted to go home. I stood back, in the dark, with my arms folded, nervously rocking back and forth on my heels, begging God to let him hit the ball at least once tonight. If he couldn't hit the ball tonight after trying so many times, I didn't know if he'd try again tomorrow. I wanted to protect him from this disappointment and frustration; but more than that, I wanted to help him push past his fear.
Seeing him standing there, alone, and discouraged, I vividly remembered standing at home plate in front of my teammates years ago, feeling as if everyone around me "got it" but me. When we're young, keeping up is everything. I didn't know, at that age, that finding my own true passion in life would bring the validity that I was seeking back then. During that season, all I wanted in life was to fit in.
Shane's team finally ended the practice that night. The coach sympathetically patted him on the shoulder and offered him a few words of encouragement, but Shane didn't hear him. He just saw me; he dropped his head and dragged his bat across the grass to me. He tried to be tough, but when he felt my arms around him, he just sunk into them.
"We'll get it, Buddy," I assured him. "Don't worry."
Game day rolled around. Bats clanged and cleats scooted across the sand on the concrete floor as the team gathered in the dugout. Crisp "Red Sox" uniforms lined the bench. The boys were eager to get their first game started.
Shane nervously swung his legs back and forth beneath the bench seat, timid and insecure. The team's dugout coach, with his roster in hand, called Shane's name second. Shane stood, slowly picked up his helmet and bat, and walked shyly out to the batter's box. I started to ask that through my prayers, God would give him the confidence and the strength he needed to meet this challenge. The first player hit the ball on the first pitch — a strong single. The umpire motioned for Shane to step up to the plate. I sensed that the coach had similar ideas as me as I saw him look deeply into Shane's eyes as if to send, through that stare, the power to connect with the ball and hit it. The first pitch came ... then the second ... nothing.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. "Lord, let him hit it. Please let him hit the ball just once."
"Run Shane run!" yelled the coach.
I opened my eyes and saw that Shane had hit the ball. He did it! It landed two feet from home plate, but it was the hit that he needed. He made it to first base; and with the next batter, he made it all the way to home plate. Two more times that night, Shane hit the ball. I can't begin to put into words the elation that I felt in that moment.
To me, God had just moved a mountain! You'd have thought his "hit," barely making it off home plate, was a grand slam. The joy I felt was so incredible, I believe, because it was born of adversity. What a gift!
Since that night, Shane has come to love baseball. I have to admit, that although I'm just as thrilled, I stay in my seat now. There's no comparison with the joy I felt when he hit the ball for the first time that season.
My prayer is that the next season of frustration or disappointment through which we pass as a family is met with acceptance and assurance that God is simply sharpening our vision so that we may see the true colors and true beauty of the joy that will follow it.
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life (Proverbs 21:30 KJV).