I cannot believe that in 40 days it will be time to run onto the fresh February dirt for the first time, embarking on another season. I CANNOT WAIT!!!!!! (Well, hopefully) Being a weather dependent sport in Pennsylvania in February usually results in a lot of disappointing cancellations, but fingers crossed. Lately, I have been looking at old pictures of the little eight year old girl that wore high tie dye socks with the huge black sliding pad, long white sliding shorts and too big shorts that were rolled many times. The little girl that played in old ratty cotton t-shirts, curly pig-tailed french braids and a thick, plastic daunting face mask. That image that is laughed at time and time again will always remain in photographs. But the more tangible memory, the passion and fire deep in the bones of that little eight year old girl still dwells within my nineteen year old heart.
Season after season has passed, thousands upon thousands of pitches have been thrown, and so much growth as an athlete has taken place. Seasons are full of growth. Full of growing pains and highs and lows. Lows that you didn’t think you could reach, but then there are also highs that fill the athlete with the purest of joy of success that fuels the deep passion in their heart. I just sit back and replay last season, my freshman season, and all the growth it held. This growth did involve lows, but also exciting highs. The growing pains within were not about finding my own strength or confidence in myself. Last season was full of surfacing the wrong mentality I have always taken onto the field. The lie that I need to be confident in who I am, trust in my ability and believe that I am strong enough to win. Notice the major issue and consistency within each statement. The “I” and the “my.” These statements reflect me and how much preparation I put in, ultimately leading to a performance reflecting me. From the first pitch of last season to the last one, the heart within the girl who tied a ribbon in her hair before each game was slowly changing. With each humbling moment of failure, the true weakness that I am was revealed. The moments of success that followed were full of the Lord unveiling the truth of His strength. This emotional rollercoaster resulted in the greatest lesson this beautiful game has ever taught me.
The pursuit of perfection as a collegiate athlete leaves one heavy leaden. The game of softball is a game of not only inches, but centimeters, millimeters, which is why it is a game of failure. God has bestowed upon me a passion that ignites the flame in my heart to compete on such a magnificent ground. The potential that the Lord has authored each of us to reach can only be found in one way. It is not found in striving for ourselves, to become better so that we may be successful. But it is indeed found once we realize that all that we are is a weak, broken athlete. This potential is found when all that we are is rendered unabashedly to the Lord, so that our successes are not us, but reveal the power of Him. God loves to see us using the gifts He has given us when we have a single-minded obedience. Seeking to improve for His name, only in that when we grow His name is glorified. The heavy laden, disappointed heart is no longer because the pressure is off. God knows the result before our laced up cleats even meet the manicured dirt. In the moment our hearts fully grasp this purpose, than our road is significant. The mission is changed. It is changed from striving for success so that we can reap the results, but that when every teammate, opponent, and spectator sees us, may they see Him. His glory. His strength. His honor.
I love so much of what Dan Britton and Jimmy Page say in their book Wisdom Walks. (Pg. 24-25).
“Be prepared! It’s not about winning, it’s about being prepared.”
“Being prepared is being ready when God opens doors… God creates all opportunities, and He determines the outcomes. Your part is obedience, because you should always be prepared to respond to the Lord’s leading. As the classic hymn says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way.” Having a passion to prepare will help you face the battle as an athlete so that challenges are embraced… never feared.”
“Competitive greatness is working hard when no one is watching. Competitive greatness is a disciplined life. It is living in such a powerful way that Christ Himself is revealed. God loves good, hard, clean competition. Disciplined athletes have great awareness of the abilities that God has blessed them with, and they use those gifts to their full potential to please Jesus.”
“When athletes have vision burning in their eyes, they become an unstoppable force for the Lord’s work… Nobody or nothing can steal the passion that God has placed in your heart as an athlete. By narrowing the focus, the Lord’s plan becomes clear because you know the target.”
“Focus allows you to be the best you by fixing your eyes on the right target- Jesus Christ.”
“Take what God has generously given you and be the best you by unleashing those gifts and talents right where God has placed you. Do it right now… and watch Him do an amazing work through you!”
Every time I read it, I reread it and take it in with just a big “WOW” because IT BLOWS MY MIND!!!! God has used this game to reveal such a greater purpose for this time of my life. Now I have always believed that God had a plan for me that involved continuing to play softball. However, game day always consisted of praying before the game, but once I stepped on the field I was throwing each pitch to win MY battle. Over the years those shorts became pants (thank goodness) and those french braids became a decorated bow (thank goodness x100), but my mindset was always the same. During last season I experienced some of the worst growing pains yet because the Lord was transforming my heart and mindset in that circle. Reflecting on the lows and the highs, God used all those moments to teach my heart that it is not my battle when I step onto the white rubber. It is His. It is His breath in my lungs as I take my deep breath and it is His strength in my veins as I begin each motion. He knows the exact outcome of every. single. pitch.
Now this is where the growth is found: In every single hour of practice, day after day, may every task be devoted to becoming more prepared for Him. Then I may be ready for the moment when He will open the door, providing an opportunity and His majesty to be revealed through me. This clear cut vision requires so much discipline, but this is why we are called to be workman, a force for His work!!! Each and every person has their own unique kingdom, their own unique mission field. For me, it is shaped like a diamond and the Lord has placed such a deep passion for this game within my heart that no one can steal.
This is why I cannot wait for February 19th. My soul cannot wait to stand firm and still, and allow the Lord to work His glory this season. For His doors to open and to know that all the hours of preparation are in order to be ready for HIS moments. I cannot wait to enter upon another season of growth, allowing Him to continue to mold this clay into a stronger and stronger workman. May He lead my feet even deeper this season, revealing more and more of His sovereign plan. May this season abound with powerful moments revealing His majesty and lifting His name higher than we could imagine.
Zephaniah 3:17- “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.”