Dean Kuest – Glendale Campus Pastor
Some of my favorite memories of being a Dad are of my five boys playing Little League baseball. One such favorite involves my son, Andrew, playing in his first game for Central’s T-Ball league. He had been waiting for this day for years as he had been subjected to watching his two older brothers play and finally it was his turn. It was the first batter of the first game of the season and he was put at the pitcher’s position, not because he would be pitching, but because that is where the action is when you play T-Ball. The opposing team’s first batter obviously knew what he was doing, because his first swing sent the ball flying into centerfield.
As I complete this memory for you, please understand there is zero judgment in my words about kids who play centerfield in T-Ball, but our teammate, playing the furthest distance from the batter, was also mentally the furthest distance from what was happening at home plate. The ball whizzed past him without the slightest recognition on his part. There was; however, one person on the field who knew what needed to happen – the pitcher. He immediately raced toward the ball at full speed, which caught the attention of the rest of the players around edges of the field, none of whom wanted to be left out of the fun that was to be had in this chase. Andrew led a charge of seven players toward the first hit of their T-Ball careers. (All but the catcher, who was girded with equipment that weighed more than he did and the centerfielder, joined in the fun.) It was Andrew who began the charge and it was he who completed it as a pile ensued in the effort to claim the prize. My son emerged from beneath the throng of treasure hunters, the only one not disappointed. With arm extended to the heavens and the baseball held high over his head, he marched from deep centerfield back to his coveted position on the mound, never lowering his trophy for all to see. Though the batter had long ago crossed home plate, telling a far different story about his first at bat than I am now telling; my son created for our family one of my favorite baseball memories.
I have memories of final outs of the winning game as well as final outs of losing games. There were diving catches and errors; strikeouts on the mound and strikeouts at the plate; home runs given up and home runs…well, that is something that has eluded the Kuest family. Somehow, win or lose, each of those memories holds a special place in our collective family story, marking the next step of growth in the lives of each of my boys.
Little League identifies clear stages of growth for kids learning to play baseball and it celebrates the steps taken as you learn and mature. I wish the steps of growth were that clear for us as followers of Jesus. I wish it were easier to identify memories of failure as part of that growth journey. Not every memory is about victory. Not every effort ends with being carried off the field. However, God, in His great love for us, can use each step to move us further into maturity and greater levels of understanding of His grace and love.
I wonder, if we truly embraced that truth, would we step out into new opportunities more often? Would we take the perceived risk of attending a Life Group instead of just sitting in church? Would we lead a Life Group instead of simply attending one? Would we serve others even if it inconvenienced us occasionally? Would we open our Bible’s, being willing to stumble through our understanding, knowing it is simply another step on our journey? Would we be intentional in our conversations with our neighbors even if it meant that they ask a question we don’t know how to answer?
Don’t just sign up to follow Jesus and simply get your participation trophy. Identify what your next step of growth in this journey might look like. I am confident that great memories will come out of stepping into it. More importantly, it will become a growth marker for you as you follow Jesus.