After a long decision process, Stan and I decided to let Landon stay back for his baseball game this past Saturday instead of attending a family camping retreat with our church. This meant that our family was split up the whole weekend, except for Saturday night when we all joined at the camp and roasted smores while one of our brothers in Christ beautifully played the guitar…I can still hear “Carolina on My Mind” and see the serene lake water with the moon gently cresting the horizon, the smell of fall gently brushing by my nose as I felt the sweet nestling in of my Lindsay Jane in my mama lap.
It was not an easy decision, but given the fact that three kids under the age of 10 camping for two nights in a row for the first time was a part of the decision, it was a tad easier to “jump ship” when something of conflict arose.
However, being the first-born that I am, I was still conflicted up until I got to that ballpark, toting Lindsay Jane and her helmet and scooter, a bag full of snacks, sidewalk chalk and bubbles…and I heard Landon’s coach, say, “Hey, will you be the dugout mom?” Me? I turned around looking to see if he was talking to someone else? After all, his wife was sitting in the stands with me and both of our young daughters. She said, “I’ll gladly watch Lindsay! Go ahead!” I think maybe she had been dugout mom one too many times…
I saw Landon’s face when I arrived in that place of honor. He smiled a smile only a nine-year old boy can…sly, slanted, not really wanting his friends to see it, but really he didn’t mind…because, even if fighting me was one of his most beloved things to do…I was there, I was present, I was in the dugout with him. The dugout – where his team was, where he wanted to be, where he is comfortable, where he sits before he goes on that field and shines…
The dugout is where he learns rules. He learns focus. He learns sportsmanship. He then takes what he learns in that dugout onto the field and applies it. The dugout is the holding place for the team as they wait to swing their bats, the “offensive weapon” in baseball. It is a place of true significance as those leading in that space have the ability to affect each little player’s confidence and therefore, their ability to most effectively use their bats to win the game.
It makes me think of the sword of the Spirit…also known as the Word of God.
Ephesians 6:11-17 says this: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
I liken that experience as a dugout mom to how truly vital it is to have the right people leading me in this life to the things that allow me to most effectively use my only offensive spiritual weapon, the Sword of the Spirit. Who am I looking to to affect my confidence, hone my faith skills, influence my thoughts? Lots of things happen in the dugout of life that cause me to stumble, to get distracted from the reason I am there.
I am there to get prepared, to get ready, for the game, that is not really a game, rather, it is a battle called life. I am in the dugout to learn, to glean wisdom from those more mature in their faith than I, to prepare to stand firm against evil (as Ephesians references above) in this life…and I often just don’t feel ready…I don’t feel confident that I will know how to use the Sword of the Spirit…”Will I remember the Scriptural reference if I start quoting? What if they ask me a question I don’t know the answer to? What if what I say (or write) does not make sense or worse, offends?”
I heard similar fears in that dugout on Saturday…”What if I strike out? What if I get tagged out? What if I get hit with the ball? What if I’m not ready?” I saw tears when things on the field did not go as one would hope. And then I saw comfort in that dugout, as much as a macho 9-year-old boy could accept. I saw overconfidence creep up, only to be squelched as teaching ensued about sportsmanship and humility.
I also heard the boys talking, bonding, cheering for each other. I saw the mamas come, put band aids on skinned knees, refill water bottles with their own water bottles, leaving those mamas no water…because their little boys needed it and that’s what mamas do. I heard the coaches encouraging, guiding, teaching, leading. I heard those coaches when my Landon got on that mound to pitch his first game ever. I heard them call him “Pitch.” I heard them, in their man ways, say, “Yeah, buddy!” as he hurled his 4th strike out…
I had a front row seat. I watched through the fence, my vision diverted between the diamonds of steel…I watched his every move, his wind up, his throw, the “heat,” his determination. And my confliction over whether of not I was supposed to be there…was no more.
That day, I helped he and his teammates get ready for their baseball game. I helped them prepare, plan, strategize…for a baseball game. At one point, I saw Landon look over at the dugout between pitches, catching my eye, breathing and settling back into the game. And I thought… just how much more does our Father in Heaven prepare us in our dugouts of life for the real game, the game of life? He has front row seats every time…we just have to look back and know that He is right there cheering us on the whole time, every time.
It’s so hard, this life. It’s hard to know which way is the right way. It’s hard to know if we are doing all that we can to better this world for our children. It’s hard to hear the news when tragedy strikes and people fight…people fear…and people die. It’s hard on small scales and on large scales. It’s a one day at a time struggle to do it better, to glean from the “right ones”. Where do we go? Where do we look? Who can we trust?
We can trust the Lord and His Word. He is our steady. He can bring us to a place of confidence in using his Sword…his Word…in offence, going out, not looking for a fight, but being ready…because we have been trained, we have studied and we have become confident in just how and when to use our only offensive weapon. And we use it for His peace.
Hebrews 4:12 says this, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Let our hearts be judged by the only thing that can truly prepare us for this life, this battle. And…let our hearts be changed because of it. Let us take our swords onto that field and knock home runs out of the park…because we confidently carry His Sword, the best, most well crafted Sword around. The Sword that brings peace, love, forgiveness and true joy.