Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The grand slam that wasn't!

I commented in warm-ups to our boy’s little league coach and my friend M.W. that I was a little nervous for this game. His reply, “Ah, we have a whole year before we should get nervous,” referring to the fact that next year our boys would start kid pitch baseball. My nervousness though was for Wyatt, my 8 year old middle child and youngest son. I had an athletic career plagued with injuries at the worst times, “almosts” and coming close. I had felt the disappointment of being the one to make the bad pass that loses the big game and the pain of seeing a state championship slip away in the final 10 seconds. I don’t want my child to go through those disappointments though I know full well that it’s these times that will build character. Still, I’m his father wanting to protect his feelings and I was nervous.

So there we sat bottom of the 3rd , bases loaded, down 6 – 0 in the first game of the Oklahoma regional tournament for coach pitch baseball when Wyatt comes up to bat. My official capacity on this team is batboy, and the tallest and best in the entire league mind you, so being on the field I got to give him my standard last words of advice before he went to the plate. “Check your hands, check your feet, then give it a ride!”

And give it a ride he did into the deep right center gap all the way to the fence of this extraordinarily neatly manicured field. With tongue wagging he rumbled, tumbled and stumbled around the bases. I could see coach M.W. at 3rd base swinging his arm like a clock on crack, which is the universal baseball signal for, “nobody stop and you better get on your horse if you want a grand slam homerun my slow little friend!!” Down the third base line Wyatt came while I screamed who knows what as he crossed home plate! I was just thinking to myself, “No matter how bad you want to, it’s completely inappropriate to scoop him up and carry him into the dugout right now!!”

Then I hear, “Tag him! Tag him,” coming from the other team’s dugout. I froze and started to yell, but it was too late, before Wyatt could get back to touch home plate that he missed in all the excitement the catcher tagged him out.

And that’s when it happened. The son’s eyes met the fathers’. Up to this point in his very young athletic career Wyatt had never let the bad plays bother him. I had figured it was immaturity or lack of knowing the magnitude of his errors…after all he’s only 8. But this time in his eyes I could see he knew.

He knew he just had a grand slam that wasn’t and he knew they needed that extra run. It’s also in this same split second that I realized how I reacted to all this as a father may shape him for years to come. I could see he was looking me straight in the eyes wanting to know how he himself should react. I recognized in that instant where I stood, this was not a teaching moment. He knew what he did wrong; now he needed grace!

I grabbed him, hugged him, told him it was okay, congratulated him on the 3 runs he knocked in that did count and patted him all the way to his seat in the dugout! A father full grace and understanding is what he needed.

I know in life we adults have many a grand slam moment that turns out to be a disaster. Most of the time, it’s something we’ve messed up ourselves. Or maybe it’s our mess ups turn out to be of a grand slam magnitude effecting not just us but family and friends around us. In these moments we may or may not want to lock eyes with our Heavenly Father depending on how we see him.

Do you see Him as ready to smack you with guilt and punishment?

Or do you see Him as your loving father ready to pat you on the back freely pouring out grace and forgiveness?

Do you see Him as the father who hurts simply because you hurt?

The father who yearns to see you succeed yet forgets your failures with every prayer of forgiveness?

The father who invites you to sit on His lap and share your deepest hurts and regrets?

It took me about 30 years to see Him this way but once I did it literally changed me forever! I could not be more serious about a life changing event in my Christian walk than this one of how I see God.

Give it a try. A simple change of perspective in how God sees you and all your shortcomings will change your life forever. It did mine!

Micah 7:18-19 (Message)
Where is the god who can compare with you—
wiping the slate clean of guilt,
Turning a blind eye, a deaf ear,
to the past sins of your purged and precious people?
You don't nurse your anger and don't stay angry long,
for mercy is your specialty. That's what you love most.
And compassion is on its way to us.
You'll stamp out our wrongdoing.
You'll sink our sins
to the bottom of the ocean.

As a side note, the teaching opportunity came later.  I'm positive young Wyatt will NEVER EVER miss home plate again!