Friday, September 13, 2013

Confessions of a Baseball Mom: Don't Miss the Signs

           It was not until my son was playing high school baseball and my husband was one of the coaches, that I realized the importance of the signs.  Looking back, the coaches had used signs in Little League to tell the catcher, who would signal to the pitcher, which pitch to throw.  Back then there were not a lot of different pitches and the signaling system always seemed to go fairly smoothly. There would only be a problem if the pitcher was not quite able to throw, say an accurate curve ball.  This was always due to lack of skill or execution, not because of a lack of willingness by the player.  Pitchers were trying their best to throw the ball the way the coach wanted.
            This changed, for the first time that I noticed, at the high school level.  We knew of a team in our city that was very good.  They had several returning seniors and one of their pitchers was exceptionally good.  He could throw his fastball faster than most.  The previous season, our team was only able to manage one hit when we faced him.
            During a game, this pitcher was shaking his head at the catcher, when the catcher relayed the coaches’ signs.  This is routinely done in the major leagues, but to my small baseball mind, this was unheard of in high school baseball.  The coach grew increasing upset at this pitcher after he did this several times.  Finally, to put an end to it, the coach walked out onto the field, pointed at the pitcher and yelled, “If you aren’t going to throw the pitches I call, you won’t be pitching for me anymore!”  It was a huge wake up call for the pitcher, as well as his teammates.
            Thankfully, our Heavenly Coach does not yell at us like that.  Although, I have needed plenty of wake up calls in my life in order to pay attention to my Coach.  How often do we shake off the signals from our Heavenly Coach?  Certainly our team has a history of doing this.  Look at Jonah.  The Coach was going to send him in to deliver a pitch to Nineveh, and Jonah shakes off the sign.  He does not get very far, because God wanted Jonah for that particular play.
            How many times have we said, “If God would only send me an obvious sign, like a burning bush,” or as my friend says, “even a sticky note on the door,” I would know what to do and I would do it.
Our Heavenly Coach is a creative communicator.  He has only sent the sign of a burning bush once.  In baseball, the coaches change up the signs so the other team does not steal them.  God uses plenty of different signs as well.
            Make no mistake about it, He is sending signs.  For one, He has given us His playbook, the Bible.  We would do well to read it, since most of our plays and signs are found there.  “Love your neighbor. Always be willing to give an answer for the hope that is within us. Give to the poor. Baptize and make disciples.”  The plays go on and on.
            Then, there is the Holy Spirit living within us.  We know when the Holy Spirit is nudging us to do something.  “Invite that person to church.   Call that person and pray with them.  Ask someone how they are doing, instead of talking about yourself.”  Let’s be honest, we know when we get a sign and we know who it is from.
            How many times have I, like that high school pitcher, shaken off my sign from God?  I know I have many times and am convicted not to miss the my sign the next time.
            I remember once when I shook off a burning bush type sign.  It was not a literal burning bush, but our modern day equivalent.  A friend, I had not heard from in a long time, called me out of the blue.  She said she had been praying for several months because she was in charge of selecting the speaker for their church’s women’s retreat.  She said the Lord kept giving her my name, so she was calling to ask if I would do it.
            Immediately my heart began to race.  I had never spoken at a women’s retreat before, although I had spoken in other venues and God had equipped me.  I told her I would pray about it and get back to her, because I knew that was what I was supposed to say.
            As soon as I hung up, my heart nearly pounded out of my chest.  My whole body began to heat up.  (If that was not a sign, I don’t know what was.)  I began to walk around my kitchen talking to the Lord.  I starting giving Him a long list of the reasons I was the wrong person for this play.  My list was very thorough.  I told Him of all my flaws, insecurities, inadequacies, my lack of anything meaningful to say, and my inexperience.
            My husband, the baseball coach, who usually does not miss his signs from the Lord, told me I should go for it.  I spent the next two days rehearsing to him all the reasons why I was the wrong person for this job. Finally, he grew weary of listening and told me to do what I thought was best.
            As quickly as I could, I called my friend and told her that she was mistaken in her sign from God.  The reason, I told her, that God had given her my name, was because I have a great friend who would be perfect for this assignment.  My friend on the phone was a little baffled, but since she had followed through on her part and called me, I would have to do whatever it was God wanted me to do.  I called my other very experienced retreat-speaking friend and she agreed to do it.  I was off the hook.
            It was not until a year later, during an intense time with the Lord, that I heard clearly, “That was for you.”  I cried for about three days.  I confessed my sin to Him and begged for His forgiveness.  But most of all, I was so sorry I had disappointed Him on a play He had called for me.  Also, I missed an opportunity for Him to use me in spite of all my inadequacies.
            I have heard that God will give us a make up play when we have blown it.  I am still shaking in my cleats thinking about that.  But, I know I do not ever want to shake off a sign from the Lord again.  I want to throw the pitches He calls for me.  I know I can do nothing without Him, and I can do everything He calls me to do because He will give me the strength to do it. Let me encourage you. We all miss the signs sometimes, but let’s stay in the game. The assignments He gives to us are uniquely created for us.What He calls us to, He will see us through.
            What about you? Have you ever missed a sign or gone against an assignment the Lord chose for you?