Time out. It’s what a baseball coach calls when he needs to head to the mound and get inside the pitcher’s head. The pitcher who has faced batter after batter. He has stared a few down, struck a few out. But, he has also let himself get intimidated, nervous, anxious by that last error, deep line drive to center field or a walk or two.
Aren’t we a lot like that pitcher? Some days it seems all is going well. We are throwing strikes right down the center of home plate. Nothing is rattling us today. Then, there are those days when we take a hit here or there. We let a runner get on base and fear gets inside our heads. And, there we are.. feeling all alone on that mound. Like EVERYTHING is riding on us. Forgetting that we have a coach speaking words of encouragement and direction from the dugout. (ok, sometimes this could be more like yelling at the top of their lungs from the dugout, but for the sake of this analogy, just go with me people). And, forgetting that we still have an entire team backing us up.
That’s what fear will do to us. It gets us rattled. It gets our minds scattered. We lose focus. And, we begin to operate from a place of anxiety and fear rather than a place of trust and confidence.
This momma has all the feels right now. Over the past 11 years, we have set through hundreds of baseball games. But, here we are at our son’s senior season. He has played with some of these boys for 10 years. I have watched my own son and his teammates on the mound time and time again.
In all the years, I had never seen my son pitch like he did in a preseason game recently. And, I don’t mean for accuracy. He can let his emotions get the best of him sometimes. Then, will struggle to find the strike zone. This particular night, we were down to the last inning. A runner had scored. And, we were up only by one run. The pressure was on. After walking a batter and a bad call, he simply shook his head, chuckled to himself, and smiled back at the batter. Then, proceeded, with the help of his team, to get out of the inning to win the game.
Instead of letting fear creep in, getting rattled and scattered, losing focus, he smiled. He laughed. His attitude changed everything on the mound that night.
It reminded me of Proverbs 31:25:
“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”
What would happen if we clothed ourselves with strength and dignity that comes from confidently trusting and believing in God’s promises, being backed up by a team of prayer warriors, and choosing to laugh instead of fearing the future? It would be a game changer for us, too.
Fear is rampant right now. As if we didn’t have enough in our lives to make us fearful already, Our sweet neighbors to the north experienced a tornado that wrecked destruction and havoc on a 50-mile long path of city and countryside. Then, the coronavirus made its debut into Tennessee the same week. We have seen our country and the world go into panic mode buying every ounce of hand sanitizer and roll of toilet paper off store shelves. And, now – just in the past week – cancelling absolutely everything imaginable even our American pastime – baseball – and our sacred church services on Sundays. I have sat stunned. Maddened by the craziness.
If you happen to be a natural born worrier – or Enneagram 6 personality type – like me, the least little thing can set our anxiety in motion. Not to mention big things like tornados and coronaviruses and widespread cancellations.
About 9 years ago, I had my first irregular mammogram. At that time I received an elusive message on my answering machine (remember those?) that sent my mind swirling. Not to mention the fact that my husband was out of town on a business trip and I couldn’t reach him. And, my grandmother had breast cancer many years before. I quickly called the doctor’s office to find out that I would possibly be needing a needle biopsy. I remember being at the point of tears. I sat down in our living room and opened my Bible. I am not sure how I came to Psalm 16, but I still remember how it comforted me that day and gave me peace.
Keep me safe, O God,
for I have come to you for refuge.
I said to the Lord, “You are my Master!
Every good thing I have comes from you.”
The godly people in the land
Are my true heroes!
I take pleasure in them!
Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods.
I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood
Or even speak the names of their gods.
Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine.
The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
What a wonderful inheritance!
I will bless the Lord who guides me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.(my tongue shouts his praises)
My body rests in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.
Psalm 16 NLT
Once again, I find myself at this place for more reasons than one. I had a spot biopsied on my face last week. At the ball game last Tuesday night, during the National Anthem, my phone rang from the Skin and Allergy Center. I started to answer, but turned around to see everyone still, with hands over heart and couldn’t interrupt the respect in that moment. I was told that I would receive a letter if the biopsy was normal. A call if not. So, of course, my mind wanted to fear the next morning as I waited to call the office.
Once again, I was reminded of Psalm 16 and as I began to read the familiar words, peace and joy flooded my soul. As I glanced over to the previous page, my eyes also fell on Psalm 13.
O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul
(store up anxious concerns within me, wrestle with my thoughts),
with sorrow in my heart every day?
(agony in my mind)
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
(How long we ask? When we need deliverance from our fear.)
Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
(restore my strength…because the weight of fear can feel like we are about to die)
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
To sparkle requires light. Have you seen the ocean waves sparkle in sunlight or a lake sparkle in a full moon? Where do we find this light? Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12
But I TRUST in your unfailing love.
I will REJOICE because you have rescued me.
I will SING to the Lord
because he is good to me.
When we begin to wrestle with our thoughts, with fear, we can choose to:
Trust – rely on and be confident in the Lord’s unfailing love.
We can THINK ON TRUTH. Get in the word and claim God’s promises over our lives.
Rejoice-to spin around under the influence of any violent emotion, dance, leap for joy as we REMEMBER all God has done for us in the past and how he is still working today. Lift up a shout of praise!
Sing-to sing in the Lord’s honor, to celebrate in song. Worship instead of worry.
This past week has been a doozy. And, that’s a huge understatement. I don’t think any of us have ever experienced anything quite like this in our lives. When I started writing this post last Thursday, I would have never believed we would be at this point today. People literally storming grocery stores to stock up. Major sporting events and gatherings cancelled across the nation like never before. My heart is aching as seniors will not play their final seasons or finish their competitions or theater or whatever when they have worked so. very. hard. As families are placed on hold to adopt their sons and daughters. As restaurants and stores are closing. As people are losing their jobs and income. Schools closing, too. Vacation plans put on hold. Churches empty on Sundays. As loved ones get sick and may even die from this virus.
I have been near tears all day that flooded into an ugly cry.
It’s time to take a TIME OUT. In fact, most of us have been given a time out like never before in history. Let’s use this time well.
Take a breath.
Get back on that mound.
Gather your team of prayer warriors.
Get into the Word so you can hear from the ultimate Coach.
Choose to Trust.
Choose to Rejoice.
Choose to Sing.
Clothing yourself with strength that comes from your faith in God.
Choose to laugh instead of fear the future.
And, watch the sparkle return to your eyes.
Oh, and that call, it was a reminder for me for my next office visit to get my stitches out. Ha! However, my office visit later confirmed skin cancer. Thankfully, the best kind possible.
Coronavirus. Cancellations. Cancer.
God has got it all. He holds it all together. He will ultimately work it all out for good. We can continue to trust him and believe his promises.
Photo: My son, Elijah. Photo Cred: Kristy Bell.