Tuesday, January 15, 2013
"Fast and Hard"
My youngest daughter Emmie and I drove through a shopping center parking lot yesterday where there used to be a baseball field. I recounted to her the story from more than forty years ago (or was it just yesterday?) of playing for the Little League district championship on that field. I also told her about the moment in that game when one of the most frightening occurrences in my life took place.
We led 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The opposing team had runners on first and third. There were no outs, and a good hitter stood at the plate. Our pitcher, a flamethrower named Dink (not sure if that was his real or a nickname), delivered a pitch with which the hitter solidly connected. His vicious line drive, however, flew right at Dink, who made a great catch to get the batter out. He then instantly turned and threw the ball to me at first base in order to double the runner who had taken off for second base when his teammate hit the ball so hard (for those of you perhaps in nations other than the United States who don't know baseball, that means we would get two outs on one play).
I never saw the ball as it approached me at just below warp speed (like I said, Dink was a flamethrower. At 12, he could throw a baseball harder than most sixteen year olds). Forty three years later, I can still feel the moment of panic as I saw Dink wheel to throw the ball as hard as he possibly could in my direction. "It's going to hit me in the face, and I'm going to die," I thought to myself (although I must have thought pretty fast because the ball reached me in probably less than a second).
In that last moment of my life (which turned out not to be my last moment), I had the wherewithal to stick my glove up, most likely as a matter of self protection. Somehow, some way, Dink's laser throw found it's way into my glove. It stuck there, again, somehow, some way, and my right foot found the base. We doubled the runner, and then Dink struck out the next batter as I trembled and tried not to hyperventilate after nearly being killed by a projectile that, again, I never saw. We won the game and the district championship, and then went on to the state tournament where we lost when facing a 6 foot 1 inch, twelve year old pitcher who threw harder than Dink, and whose pitches, like Dink's throw, I don't think me or any of my teammates ever actually saw (scary, ain't it?).
Life approaches us fast and hard, and often we don't see it coming. Sometimes we put up a glove, and catch the ball before it strikes us. But sometimes it hits us flush in the face. Both possibilities must lead us to our Heavenly Father. The former elicits grateful praise and thanksgiving as we know without question that either God or an angel sent by Him enabled us to meet the challenge. The latter scenario involves a far more difficult matter of trusting that when our Lord lowers the hedge (or the glove), He does so in complete confidence that He can fit our difficulty into His good and loving purposes for us. The Apostle Paul's beloved Romans 8:28 proclaims the blessed truth: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." Indeed, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is wise enough, powerful enough, involved enough, and loving enough to coordinate everything that happens to us into His sublime purpose of conforming us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Such remembrance in times of both catching the ball of life, as it were, or being struck by it assures our hearts with "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7).
I'd have a different story to tell if the ball had hit me in the face (and a different face!). I'm most grateful for how things happened, and Dink, wherever you are, I try to remember to pray for you whenever it comes to mind that you nearly killed me! :) I'm even more grateful, however, that had things happened differently, the Lord would have been no less able to have woven His perfect purposes into the fabric of His glory and my best interest. This is peace, my dear brothers and sisters, the peace of "all things" and every contingency working together for good. All. Every.
"In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
(I Thessalonians 5:18)