Monday night’s concluding sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks by the Los Angeles Dodgers allowed me to finally exhale the anxious breath I seemed to have been holding since the regular season ended. Throughout all three games of their short series I paced nervously all the while adding my own color commentary and critical analysis to every at-bat and every pitch. I found myself constantly checking my surroundings for furniture and people I might unintentionally collide with during the intense moments of celebration, heartache, and outbursts of emotion. At the final out of each game I was exhausted from the emotions and drama that I wasn’t even a part of. While I cheered alone at work and home, I was able to share the experience with Troy over text message and friends on Facebook. I would have enjoyed the experience more in person but having a world-wide connection with friends and family near and far (actually, far and further far would be more accurate) was still fairly high on the fan-meter.
Following the Paul Goldschmidt’s flailing strikeout while attempting to hit a nasty, nasty, slider from Kenley Jansen, I celebrated individually, celebrated with Troy on the phone, celebrated on Facebook, and was loudly shushed by Tanner so I wouldn’t wake his kids. In the aftermath of it all I began to process some of what had transpired over the course of the last week and found a lesson I pray I never forget and pray I continue to learn:
Humility and Selflessness.
I was particularly impressed by two individual players on the Dodgers. The first, Alex Wood was arguably one of the best pitchers in the National League this season, was an All-Star, and yet didn’t even throw one pitch against the Diamondbacks.
The other, Kenta Maeda, was a starting pitcher all season, finished with a respectable 13-6 record, yet for the playoffs was relgated to the bullpen and pitched a total of 2 innings (6 batters) over the course of the three games.
No doubt, each of them wanted the ball at the start of a game. The role given to them was not their choice. The manager and coaching staff made those decisions for their own reasons and purposes. Undoubtedly Alex Wood could’ve argued his case as to why he should have started game 2 instead of Rich Hill. Understandably both could have been sullen, frustrated, and sank into bitterness for not getting what they probably thought they deserved. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. Maeda only pitched to 6 batters but they may have been his best pitching of the year. Wood, they guy who didn’t even play when others of lesser ability did, was seen cheering and encouraging his team to victory. No bad attitude anywhere to be found. They accepted their role, trusted their manager, and contributed whatever they could.
How often do we (I!) not respond with such maturity? How often we look at the events and context of our lives with a completely different attitude? It is so easy to focus on our rights, what we believe we deserve, and develop negative attitudes. We wallow in self-pity when we don’t get the recognition we think is due us. Jealousy and pettiness run roughshod over our relationships.
Ultimately, we must admit we are pointing such an accusing finger at God. When our focus is self-ward we don’t allow for or submit to God’s sovereign leading in our lives. We speak of and pray for “God’s will be done” but often our attitudes reveal a much darker reality.
There are two principles we must embrace if we will be the Maeda’s and Wood’s in God’s kingdom work. In the day to day, here and now, we must cling to Proverbs 16:9, “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” I am the Lord’s and as His servant I must accept and trustingly submit to God’s intervention in my life; no matter how painful a trial, how inconvenient a circumstance, or seemingly forgotten I may feel. We must also set aside our expectations and timetables. Peter writes in 1st Peter 5:6-7, “…humble yourselves under the might hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all our anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” In God’s sovereign grace He promises to vindicate us and exalt us in His time and in His way. We believe that and patiently wait for that time, all they while doing all we can with what we can.
It is not mine to decide how and when God will use me. It is not mine to hold onto what I believe I have earned and deserve. God, our King, our Savior, the LORD, holds that in His perfect will.
I’m good with that.