Friday, April 08, 2005

Baseball, Grace and Sons

When my son -- aged seven -- came up and announced that he wanted to play baseball on one of our county's community teams I wasn't terribly happy. "I don't know anything about baseball," i told him. "I can't teach you how to play." Undaunted, he joined a local team and began a journey where we both learned a lot. Unfortunately, none of it was about baseball.

How can I put this delicately and with grace and sensitivity?... His team stunk. I'm sorry, but there it is. None of them could hit the ball, throwing was an exercise in chaos theory and their attention spans seemed equivalent to that of a ferret on its third cup of expresso. It was the Attention Deficit Disorder league and my son's team -- supported by Future Slackers of America -- was the single A farm team.

One day Duncan was up to bat. Suffice it to say there was not an air of expectancy in the crowd and he did not point to the fence behind center field. Someone had misaligned the pitching machine and it fired the ball... well, blooped it, really... in a slow motion parabolic curve towards him. It hit him on his shoulder with all the force of a hurled kleenex. Unsure of what happened next, he looked over at his coach who -- more excited than he'd been for some time -- told him he could now go to first base for free. Duncan, amazement on his face, began his journey. The whole team came out of the dugout to see him make this trek; one which had never been made by anyone on the team before. In fact, they had heard of such things, but had classified them as mythological, perhaps on the same level as Star Wars and homework-free schools.

Not being particularly quick on the uptake, they didn't realign the pitching machine so the next kid got the ball on the arm, too. He went to first as they explained to Duncan that he could now go all the way to second base. This was almost too much to take. ("Hey dad! Can you see me? I'm far!")

They corrected the machine's aim and the next kid -- terrified of failure and possible maiming -- stepped up to the plate. He went into the fetal position when the ball came, not trusting that it was aimed over the plate. By some fluke of the universe -- proving that God's has a sense of humor -- the ball dropped on, and then hopped off, his bat. It was a hit, of sorts, rolling a good foot and a half forward.

Absolute panic struck the field. It was as if someone dropped a shark in a tank of guppies. Nobody knew what to do but assumed it involved running around a lot and yelling. The coach yelled to Duncan "Run to home base!" and Duncan did... right across the pitcher's mound. I was there when he crossed the plate (he had to hop over the batter who wasn't sure he wasn't dead, but the catcher seemed to have wandered off). I grabbed him and swung him around in a big hug. While his coach had an embolism to the side, I told him "That was brilliant! They weren't expecting that!"

No... his team wasn't good. They couldn't catch, hit, or even understand the rules of the game. Duncan couldn't, either, but he was brilliant.... because he was MINE. That made all the difference.

It does in eternal matters, too. Never confuse the family room with the court room. There are huge differences. Too many churches treat people as if they were in a court room where guilt is presumed and innocence must be proven by perfect doctrine and behavior. But God is our Father and we are in His family room. I may be one of the worst excuses for a servant God has ever seen... but I am His. And that means I'm saved -- thoroughly, completely, and totally.
I may not know where all the bases are and what all the rules are, but I'm running home and I know Who will be there to welcome me when I arrive. It may give the devil and some of my brethren an embolism -- but my Father will declare me safe!


At 4/08/2005 03:44:00 PM , Blogger Larry said...

We can have few better role models than children, they do give us some great perspectives.

When the Pope died recently I thought of a verse of scripture in Matt. 19:30 "But many that are first will be last, and the last first."

The great, by earthly standards, will have to wait in line behind the children to get into heaven.

By God's grace, we as believers, become as children to Him, and as you said we will be declared safe.

At 4/11/2005 09:40:00 AM , Blogger David U said...

Patrick, what a GREAT analogy! I heard you speak of "the family room" at the OC lectures, and that has stuck with me.

I have one more often, brother! :)

Once when my dad was coaching Little League a kid ran from second to home on a fly ball without tagging up, and when daddy told him to go back to second he went running back the shortest route he had......yep, over the pitcher's mound! :)

Thanks Patrick!


At 4/11/2005 11:54:00 AM , Blogger Keith said...

That was one of the funniest and yet reassuring posts I have read in a long time. Since I parent 3 children, nearly all college age now, it brought back lots of memories. I miss those times at the ballpark when the kids couldn't wait to get in line for the snowcones after the "game."Thanks for sharing the experience and like David U said, "Blog more!" Courtroom vs Family Room is powerful. Good advice.

At 4/11/2005 11:04:00 PM , Blogger Milton Stanley said...

You hit a home run with this one.

At 4/12/2005 06:13:00 AM , Blogger Milton Stanley said...

I wrote about it at my blog. Peace.

At 4/12/2005 03:21:00 PM , Blogger DJG said...

I can't wipe this silly grin off of my face. That was great!!

At 4/13/2005 06:54:00 AM , Blogger iggy said...

WIth tears, thanks!

At 4/25/2005 11:11:00 PM , Blogger Steve Duer said...

As a father of a 5 year old playing his first year of baseball, I loved this post!


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