Over the course of a long season, life is going to knock you down…repeatedly. Sometimes you will be able to anticipate adversity’s arrival, and other times it will strike with ruthless force in completely unexpected fashion. But no matter its entrance, whether grand or subtle, there is one thing that you can always count on – it WILL show up. I know, it sounds cliché, but that’s life. It’s a rollercoaster. We must learn to take the ups with the downs. After all, most of us didn’t embark on this crusade having made the assumption that it would be a smooth ride all the way through. We simply rose to our feet, hopped on board, and strapped ourselves in tight with the intention of following a calling from birth. And common to each and every one of us, that calling was to live, and to live well, despite any obstacles that we might encounter along the way.
We cannot escape hardship. No matter how well we’ve prepared ourselves for the next dead red fastball, inevitably we’re going to need to protect the plate and swing at a few curves from time to time. And we’re not always going to connect. Sometimes we’re going to swing and miss. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t get back in the box and learn to see the ball better and adjust to the speed and movement of the pitch. A baseball player committed to excellence does not get discouraged simply because he struggles a handful of times at the plate. He gets back in the cage and hits more balls. He trains himself to respond accordingly to the pitches that trouble him. And in time, perhaps only after enduring several seasons littered with strikeouts and managerial criticism, something begins to click for him. Miraculously, he shows that he is now able to react to the curveball just as would the dead red fastball. This is the moment when he becomes a truly dangerous hitter.
You see when you learn to shift your focus from eyeing the fastball to seeking the curve everything begins to change. It’s about anticipating hardship and responding with confidence instead of fear. It’s about maintaining an understanding that you’ve been trained to see difficulty and react accordingly to it. When you decide to accept discipline in response to adversity, you will begin to realize that you no longer need the dead red fastball in order to knock the ball out of the park. You will instead learn to adapt your timing and swing to allow yourself to hit any pitch over the wall. You will prove to your teammates and fans that you are no longer a one trick pony; you will become a versatile hitter. And you won’t need a short lived hot streak at the plate to solidify a positive public view of a less than fulfilling personal career. You’ll be equipped to play the game forever at a high level, because you will have learned to adapt and advance your play as a result of your responses to adversity.
I’ve been thrown a lot of curveballs in my life. And for many years I responded ineffectively to them. I had my heart set on the fastball. I wanted an easy ride. I wanted to hit it out of the park on my first at bat and hear the crowd chant my name as I rounded the bases. So when I whiffed on a bender, I didn’t react well to it. I blamed the guy that threw the pitch, I blamed the coach that trained me, I blamed the distractions from the stands…I blamed everyone but myself for my inability to see the pitch effectively and adjust my swing. I didn’t want to learn to hit the curve. That would involve me accepting the pain of my failures as my responsibility. It would require me to look inside and grind my way to an answer. I was not ready for that. I wanted to be angry about my circumstances, because I believed that I was offered an unfair at bat.
Thankfully, I’ve learned through a rebirth in faith to better accept reality over the years. And in doing so, I’ve grown to understand the impact that my lack of discipline at the plate has had on my ability to be successful. I’ve swung at bad pitches out of the zone. I’ve jumped out in front of off-speed offerings with an anxious, impatient mindset in the box. And I’ve frozen time after time watching third strikes pass in fear of the uncertain and unknown. I’ve recorded a lot of K’s in the old scorebook. And I’ve had many less than stellar seasons. But in recent years I’ve learned to accept the discipline and training that I’ve received as a result of those experiences, and I can assure you that that acceptance has most certainly allowed me to be better prepared for future meaningful at bats in my life.
I’ve learned to embrace the curve. My relationship with God has taught me that there is not a pitch that I cannot hit if I keep getting back into the box with a willing mindset to accept failure as discipline. If I remain confident and view adversity simply as an opportunity to train my mind, body, and spirit for better outcomes in the future, I will be successful. And when life tosses me an unexpected bender, I will not fear. Instead I will react with confidence, trusting in the process that the Lord has established for refining me into a more versatile, battle-tested, career hitter. I will swing away with assurance in His vision.
You cannot escape hardship in life. Whether you feel that the lot that you’ve been given is fair or not, you will need to understand that it was offered to you for a very real reason. There is great purpose in pain and failure. And if you can learn to accept that, life will become very fulfilling. You don’t always need to see a fastball to widen your eyes and envision a homerun. You have the choice to see those opportunities everywhere, even in the pitches that you once deemed impossible to hit. Nothing is impossible with the Lord’s training and discipline. Allow Him the opportunity to coach you to greatness.
May God Bless!