I used to play ball on a pretty good fast pitch softball team. I played middle infield and outfield, mostly shortstop. We had two really great pitchers during the time I played. Larry Brooks would sling that ball hard and pull the string and get guys swinging out of their shoes. He was good but Paul Bryant was great. He not only could throw pitches that broke in on your hands and made it feel like you were hitting a telephone pole with the bat but it did it with such evil intent. He was a pretty big guy that had a mustache that belonged in the old west and below it was a sneer that let you know that if you somehow managed to hit that ball he would remember. He would remember and the next time he faced you, you were going to pay. He combined overpowering and crafty with mean and nasty. That’s what makes a great pitcher. I really learned a lot about pitching watching those two guys work on people from my position on the field. I learned so much that I decided that I could do it. So I began to practice.
At first I threw balls high above my target or skidded them across the ground. I struggled to find my release point but after some practice I found it. Then I began to learn to put my forward momentum into increasing the speed of my pitches. After that I started to change grips and releases to curve the ball or slow the pitch down. I soon had a variety of pitches at my disposal and could hit my spots. I knew I was ready to try my pitching on live people. I had worked hard and I knew that in playing ball hard work always paid off. I was confident. I was ready to go on the field and mow them down.
I was playing second base and our team was well in the lead and suddenly Larry, who was also the coach, turned to me and told me this was my big debut. I was getting the ball. We were playing about the worst hitting team in the league and this was as good a time as any for me to show my skills. I made my way to the rubber and with great confidence I got shelled. Everyone hit me. Nobody could miss my pitches. I was puzzled as one great pitch after another got smacked all over the place. I just wanted to get out of there. I knew this wasn’t for me. The bases were loaded and there were no outs. I wanted out but my coach just told me to pitch through it. I couldn’t believe he didn’t pull me. After our lead had shrunk to nothing I finally saw out number three and with great relief I got off the field.
I don’t know how many pitches I threw in that inning. I felt like it was a whole game’s worth. Here is what I learned. I was not a pitcher. I was a good shortstop, second baseman and outfielder. I was an OK third baseman or first baseman. I already knew that I was a terrible catcher. I now knew that I was a horrible pitcher. I had lots of pitches. I threw pretty hard. I looked like a pitcher standing out there. But I couldn’t get anybody out. I couldn’t get the old guy on the team out, the one that was just there so they wouldn’t have to forfeit the game, the one that had only played ball games on the radio. I was an awful pitcher. I gave the ball back to Larry and never asked for it again.
I can’t do it all. I learned that relatively young about playing ball but I wish I had learned it about the rest of my life at that moment. I wish I had handed the softball to Larry and handed the rest of my life to God right there at that point in time. Instead I wanted to be the pitcher, throwing pitch after pitch up against highly skilled and angry opposition. I feel like the first fifty years of my life I have been on the mound getting shelled, giving up bomb after bomb, my best was never good enough as the score rung up against me. I have worked hard just to survive another inning only to see that to win was impossible. Losing was inevitable as my scores were too few and the opponent’s lead was too great. I have finally learned that I need to go to my rightful place. I am not to lead God. I need to hand Him control and let him lead me. I know this now. That’s a good start.
Romans 8:6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.
I have seen school kids, maybe I have been one of these kids, run out to the mound at recess and pick up the ball and argue over who gets to pitch. I think that even though I know that only my sinful nature drives my desire to take control of my life through pride, fear, selfishness and a myriad of other flaws I possess, that I still run out to the mound and grab the ball. Sometimes yielding my grip on it comes hard. I am starting to get better about it. The more I see how skillfully God carves up the competition the easier it becomes. I wish I could just give it to Him without having to see results. I am working on having faith in Him. He has already won after all.
Romans 8:7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
So the next time I am not happy with how things are going, the next time I feel like things are out of control and my best efforts are a calamity, I need to stop and make sure who has the ball. This doesn’t mean that everything is going to be beautiful and happy happy joy joy! Times are still going to get tough. There will still be drama.
Romans 8:35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
There will be dramatic victories ahead. I will not be the winning pitcher listed in the stats for any of them. I will be where He puts me.