Softball tournaments (like most sport tournaments, I imagine) can bring out the best in people and sometimes the worst.
The best comes out when the team is playing together, supporting one another, coaches encouraging the players instead of critiquing them during the game. Parents cheering from the sidelines. And then there’s the snacks. I mean C’MON – Swedish Fish AND Jimmy John’s? Nothing’s better.
The “worst” doesn’t come out very often, but when it does, it can teach us perspective and lessons of epic proportions – even spiritual ones.
This summer, I headed out to one of Elle’s Saturday afternoon game. It was one of those ridiculously hot July afternoons with no wind (why is there never wind at the fields when it’s hot – only when it’s freezing?!). When I got to the field, the game before Elle’s was still going on so I sat down to watch the end of it. The first girl I noticed on the field was the catcher.
Many believe that that the catcher, if she’s doing her job, is basically be the one who controls the game. She often calls the pitches, she is the only one with a view of the entire field from the plate perspective, and many times she’s the one calling out direction to players to move left or right, in or out, and even calling where the ball should be thrown once it’s caught. She keeps the game moving and she, herself, is constantly in motion and thinking about what is coming next. ALL the positions are super important and needed in order to win the game. But there’s just something about the catcher that has always sort of fascinated me – the multitasking and everything…it resonates.
As I watched this game, I noticed the catcher seemed a little unsteady on her feet when she’d stand to throw the ball back to the pitcher. The ump noticed it too, and called “time” and told her to get some water. After a few seconds of her trying to convince the ump she was okay, her coach (who happened to be her dad) came out onto the field with water and a cold towel. She refused the towel and only took a quick sip and got back down into her catcher’s crouch, indicating that her “break” was over.
The next pitch got past her and as she rose to get it, she fell into a heap at home plate. I don’t know if it was heat exhaustion or dehydration or what. Regardless, she was down. After a few minutes of teammates grabbing her gear off her and sitting her up, she took some sips of water and begrudging got off the field so another player could take her place and the game could continue.
Her coach/dad was trying to help her off the field and, while I don’t know what he was saying to her, I could tell it was kind and spoken from a place of concern and care for her.
But she wanted nothing of it. She whipped her glove to the ground and screamed, “FINE! FINE!! I’m finished. You wanna take me out of the game? You want me to rest? FINE! I’m tired, okay? I don’t want to play this game anymore anyway. I’m done! I’ve had it! I’m sick and tired of it and I don’t want to play anymore!” And then she burst into tears and fell to her knees.
I’m a contagious crier; if I see someone else cry, I start too. So as I’m watching her sob, I feel my eyes welling up too.
My first thought was, “Oh, poor girl!”; I just felt so bad for her.
But then. THEN.
This next thought popped right up and into my soul: “I know how you feel, sweet girl.” And as soon as that thought popped into my head, I went into full-on ugly cry. Not for her. But for me. Because I honestly knew how she felt.
I think some of you might, too. The feeling of burning out; of doing it all and continuing to do it even when something inside of you is dying for a rest. Even when your body, mind, and spirit are telling you to take a break. But, in order for you to do so, it has to be forced on you. And really, those “forced” periods of rest don’t provide us with all the time, space, and refueling we need. We rush through it to get back into the “game”, so we don’t miss anything. That is, until we just can’t rush anymore. And then?
Well, we’re totally taken out of the game; we’re sidelined.
There was a survey done on a group of men and women who experienced migraines. They were asked that if there was a pill available to them that could take away the possibility of ever getting a migraine again, would that take it? Can you guess what the majority of survey participants said? They said NO; they would not take it.
The researchers were completely baffled by this finding so they went back and asked for some comments and explanation. The common thread went something like this:
“It’s not that I want the label of being a person who suffers from migraines. What I want is the opportunity – AND the understanding of others that it is justifiable – for rest. If I have a migraine, people expect me to turn inward, to go home, get under the covers…REST. No one thinks less of me because of it. It gives me the excuse to stop moving; to stop DOING. I get to rest; and it is accepted and understood.”
Many of us have become people who believe that the only way we can deem it worthy to rest is if it is forced upon us, because anything else makes us appear weak.
Why are we like that? I don’t exactly know, but what I find really interesting is that Jesus knew we would be. Why else would he have said:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out…? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30, MSG
Jesus is essentially saying “I want to show you how this is supposed to work. Rest is simply another (actually, the BEST) avenue for you to experience grace; MY grace.” He is saying, “Please don’t miss out on grace because you’re too proud to admit you need it. I don’t want you to stop playing because you are exhausted. I want to fill you up while you’re still in the game so you can keep going when needed and be strong enough – healthy enough – to take a break, too.”
Rest is beyond valuable to us if we are to be awake and mindful to the wonders of God. When we participate in the unforced rhythms of grace that rest provides us, the energy arounds us shifts and becomes less charged and chaotic. We become more positive, have a better memory, and have a noticeably slower “ramp up” rate! We find ourselves to be calmer, more resilient, more centered and even more even-keeled. We walk with grace.
So. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes I need some rest. I don’t want to quit this “game” because… love my team! Like that catcher this summer, I just get a little tired of assuming I need to control the field and feeling like I’ve gotta catch whatever is thrown at me. Amen?
Here’s the honest truth. It all comes down to control. And by that, I mean YOU trying to control the field. But the thing is, there’s probably another catcher on the bench who can come in for you AND DO A FINE JOB. It may not be the job you would do; but the job can be done, at least for a little while.
It ALSO doesn’t mean you’ll lose your spot on the team. It doesn’t mean you can’t come back into the starting rotation. It just means you realize the value of being strong enough to take a rest.
Jesus offers me (and YOU) that option in Matthew 11, don’t you think? In essence, his invitation to rest is the same as saying, “Let me tell you a thing or two about how to improve your game – and it has nothing to do with playing harder. It’s about playing smarter and playing WITH the team, not AS THE ONLY ONE ON THE TEAM. It’s about resting your muscles when they are tired (because they WILL get tired) and seeing the playing field with fresh eyes again. And the only way you can accomplish that is by spending some time with ME.”
Take a break, sweet friends. If not for yourself, take one for the team, okay? 😉
Following along with our wonder-FULL study?! Click here to find out more! You can read chapter .004 on “The Wonder of Rest” in Margaret’s book! And, if you are working at a Level 4, complete Week 3 in the participant guide. AND, for you CCM fans out there, here’s a link to a contemplative tune called “Here’s My Heart”, by I Am They.
See you back here nextfor our thoughts on The Wonder of Prayer!
Peace, love and WONDER!