I wasn’t expecting to learn a lesson at the ballpark that day, but that’s God for you…always ready to show His children the way in unexpected places.
As a Children’s Pastor, I enjoy being invited to the various activities of my “church kids.” I can’t make them all, but I try to go to as many ballgames, recitals, and plays as my calendar and family schedule will allow. I think it sends a message to my tiny church tribe that they matter OUTSIDE of the church building, and that’s important to me.
This particular evening found me at the ballpark watching what might be one of THE most entertaining sporting events on all of the Planet Earth: a t-ball game for 4-year olds. Is there anything better? Guaranteed entertainment!
Next up to bat: Tommy.
I didn’t know him from church, but a nearby mom mentioned to me that Tommy wasn’t always “feelin’ it” when it came to t-ball. I didn’t understand the depth of that statement until I watched him during his first time at bat.
Observing Tommy, it was clear that he was indeed not “In It To Win It.” Everything about his stance and swing said, “I AM OVER IT. AMEN.” The only way he could have put in less effort would have been to put the bat down.
After missing so many blessed times, Tommy’s bat finally made contact with the ball. Hallelujah! The fans in the stands began to cheer wildly as he turned to run to first base…only he didn’t run.
And not just any walk, mind you. He walked slower than I’ve ever seen any kid walk to a base in all my t-ball-watching days.
The look on his face said to the opposing team, “Go ahead. Tag me. I am not concerned. I’ll be in this general area if you need me. Don’t hurry yourselves on my account.” Even though his coaches and parents were strongly encouraging him (read “screaming”) to run, he was not having it.
Then, as if his slow walk and come-what-may attitude wasn’t enough, once he made it all the way to first base, he SAT DOWN. All.Done.Thank.You.
In case you’re thinking he might have been in danger of being tagged out during his slow walk to the base…no. This is t-ball, people. The ball went through the arms and legs of nearly every kid. Their effort was epic (and funny), but Tommy was NEVER in danger of being touched by the ball OR an opponent OR the will to seem interested.
Just when I thought this could not be more entertaining, the next miniature batter made a successful hit and off they ran to first. Tommy, in the opposite of “a hurry,” eventually lifts himself up from the base and starts to walk to second.
Same slow walk. Still no chance of running. Stay in it, Tommy.
By the time he made it to home plate, walking the ENTIRE way, three runners had passed him. As I was laughing at how non-committed this little guy was, I felt God’s Spirit tap me on the shoulder. “You’ve been acting like Tommy, you know. And that’s not how I intend for you to live.”
He was right. I knew it immediately.
I hadn’t been putting my whole heart into “running the bases” of my life at that time. That particular t-ball game was near the end of not just the school year, but also of a long, challenging year of ministry at a new-to-me church.
I was tired. I knew I had been slipping into patterns of apathy and laziness, but I had been ignoring it. I wasn’t taking care of myself the way I should have and it was starting to show in every area of my life.
I was still going “up to bat”, but I wasn’t really trying to hit a home run and, when I did manage to connect with the ball, I certainly wasn’t running. A half-effort is super cute on a 4-year old on the t-ball field. It’s not that attractive on a 44-year old who’s been blessed with the gifts of a beautiful life, but is burning out due to a lack of balance. I simply wasn’t taking care of myself the way God intended.
So, sitting in those stands that night, I asked God to forgive me for my lack of real effort and asked Him to help me live a better balance. I needed more rest, real food, and realistic boundaries and I needed Him to help me figure it all out. A year later, I can attest to the fact that balance is key! Rest works wonders and boundaries, though challenging to keep, are blessings.
If we’re going to “run the race” set out for us, we’re going to have to take the time to come to Him and rest. There’s no healthy way to do one without the other.