Baseball. Nothing more American that baseball (and maybe apple pie…and maybe burgers…and maybe… I digress… I’ll go on). On July 4 I took my kiddos to go see the local minor league team The West Michigan Whitecaps (Go Caps!!). It was great. We sat by the visiting team’s dugout, cheered for the Whitecaps, sang the National Anthem and Take Me Out to the Ball Game during the 7th inning stretch. And then we had fireworks afterwards. The Whitecaps even won. All around, a great night.
As I watched the game, I noticed something from both teams. Almost all up at bat didn’t swing at the first pitch. A couple of times they had a good eye and it was a ball, thrown too high or two wide out of the strike zone. But a large number of times it was a strike, right in the path of the bat. Yet the batter didn’t swing. I began to wonder about this. Was this some recreation of the classic Thayer poem Cassey at the Bat? Did they see themselves as the Mudville Nine? Or was it something else?
I’m sure their coach had a good reason why they shouldn’t swing at the first pitch. I’m sure it was for strategic purposes. Yet at the same time, the strategery seemed to be across the board. The first pitch was ignored. Strike or ball they didn’t swing.
It made me wonder, how often do we ourselves not swing at the first pitch in life? We can have a good thing pop up, a good thing be thrown our way straight and on the inside right where we’d swing the bat, yet we let it go by. Is it fear? Is it hesitation? Is it worry?
To put it even a step further, when God calls you to do something for him, either mundane or more so something that will take risk, do you swing at that first pitch or do you wait a bit to make sure it’s the right thing?
I didn’t play much baseball as a kid, honestly, I wasn’t good at it, but I remember the thrill of hearing that crack, feeling the results of Newton’s Law against the wooden bat, and hearing the first base coach yell “Run, ya moron, run.” Is that excitement and thrill of the crack of the bat gone in serving God? Is there too much on the line?
I was wondering about this for the minor league players. Many of them are still auditioning for the majors. If they do well here, show they have the stuff here, then they can go on to the pros and get name recognition, get people buying your jersey, get people hollering your name for good reasons. Yet even getting into the majors doesn’t mean you stay there. Sometimes they send players back down to the minors to work on a few things, to get a bit more experience, or because they really don’t have what it takes to play in the majors.
And so, the minor league player, standing at home, in the chalk drawn square, looks the pitcher in the eye, squints against the lights, and ponders life itself, will this swing be that thrilling crack-of-the-bat-proof-of-Newton’s-Law or will it be a simple swing-and-a-miss?
God calls us to serve. And we stand there, I know I do as a pastor, and wonder if I should swing at that first pitch God gives. Will it knock it out of the park or will it be a whiff. Will people see what God is doing (or more egocentric, will be people see what I’m doing…for God of course) or will it be a colossal failure, filled with ridicule and an asterisks in the history of the church?
As I try hard to serve God, to live for Jesus, I wonder how often I don’t swing at the first pitch. I wonder how often do I not faithfully step forward and do as I’m called with joyful obedience.
The thing about baseball is that you don’t really have to knock it out of the park each time but you do need to try to get on base. And it’s being one person on base at a time that really wins ballgames, not a single home run but a working together with others, trusting in God.
To swing at the first pitch is needed. God didn’t call us to be timid, but instead he gave us the Spirit to fill us with power, with love, and with self discipline! And still, we stand there, ready to serve, we’re given the pitch, right across the plate, ready to connect with the bat. A direct leading from God. Do we swing or wait to make sure? Will fear lead the way or will trust?
God is calling, will you answer? Will you swing at the first pitch or wait for the next one?