Last night, there was a giant midget baseball game. I understand that sounds like an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp or just war or business ethics, but when you’re on a team of 11 & 12 years old (or their coaches), it’s absolutely true. Both teams were easily undefeated, mostly untested AND had bad feelings towards each other, setting up a Monday night clash they had anticipated for almost a year.
They had a monster pitching, who threw harder than most adults – yet in a puzzling twist for a youth league, was bent on changing speeds and showing every batter 2 or 3 curve balls. I couldn’t help but to think of the rampant arm problems at every level – and imagine a ‘Tommy John’ surgeon sitting behind the catcher whispering, “another curve ball,” and laughing maniacally.
Anyway, we had one on the mound, as well. It was a great game, made better by the wonderful surprise that we won, scoring 2 in the last inning to win 4-3. There was heart, fundamentals, and tense excitement, the kind of game that reminds you why you love sports and, if you don’t, think maybe you could.
At different times during the game, some of the boys buckled under self-imposed pressure, thinking they had to carry the entire team, the parents, and the fate of the universe on their shoulders to victory. Some wilted under their own perceived deficiency, believing the lie that they were unable to compete against such fierce competition. Some fought…until a blown strike or out call went against them, the circumstances of the moment poisoning their resolve. And all of them came to the field, just as they had every day, in terrible weather and brilliant sun, on bad days and good, and stood strong, through the ups and downs of the contest.
As it is with us, right?
There have been seasons of my life where I felt the tremendous weight of perfection. The world/my friends/my parents/anything was broken and I would fix it, I would be Superman, hold it all together. But I wasn’t, couldn’t. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world. I can certainly help – I happen to be one of those fools who think that we are able to partner with God to reclaim what was lost, to repair what is broken, to bring light into the dark. But the pressure of being Superman actually contributed to a confusing apathy, freezing me into a position of inaction.
Also, I’ve known seasons (so so many) where I believed that I wasn’t enough – of what? Of everything. These disgusting, destructive lies paralyzed me for so long. If I’m honest, they still do (you know, if I’m honest, I still wrestle with the perfectionism, the Superman syndrome – well, probably still wrestle with all of them at different times.) What do you have to offer? Who do you think you are? You can’t hit that guy, he’s so big/throws so hard, and you’re just…you.
The situations, obstacles have pulled me under, so deep that I thought I would never come back up for air.
But the last one – that’s the one, baby, where we just show up and keep showing up. Maybe (probably) feeling the fear of insecurity, inadequacy. Maybe (probably) trying to hold things together. Maybe (probably) crushed in the undertow of, simply, living in a world that seems to conspire against us. And showing up anyway. Taking the field and giving everything we have to give – a great friend of mine says, leave it all on the field.
I’m sure I talk too much to the boys and, Friday night at practice, I told them the best advice I have. In baseball, in your marriage, at work, at school, give all you have, and hold nothing back. Then, even if you lose (and, there will be times we lose), you’ll sleep well.
How many marriages could be rescued if both of us ran as fast as we could, if we didn’t take any third strikes, if we dove at fly balls because we just might be able to catch them?
Last night, those boys created a beautiful work of art. But now, I wonder how many of our lives would become masterpieces if we gave our complete attention to this at-bat, this pitch, this ground ball – and not the next (or the last) game? If we just showed up, every day in every way?