Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Dreaded Curveball

Although I’ve lost my boyhood love affair with baseball (these days I much prefer football and basketball, especially the college variety), I’m still aware this time of year is when Major League baseball teams are busily at work in Florida and Arizona – getting in shape, working on fundamentals, and preparing for another 162-game season.

This is when pundits predict the year’s “phenoms”, young players soon to be compared with the all-time greats in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Many of those “can’t miss” standouts will indeed miss. The reason, especially for hitters, will be a culprit known as “the dreaded late-breaking curveball.”

A friend, James, who has played some baseball in his time, has observedt:

“It curves right about the time it gets to home plate. Most hitters’ eyes are focused on where they think they are going to hit the ball – and not on the ball itself.”

Personally, I never advanced in baseball beyond the Little League level, and didn’t do very well even there. But over a span of more than six decades of living, life has thrown lots of curveballs my way. Too many times, especially when I was younger, I had an annoying habit of swinging and missing. As James noted, I was more concerned about where I would hit the “ball” than paying attention to where the “ball” was going.

So how do we deal with life’s curveballs, especially when we don’t know they’re coming – a major surprise at work, a sudden family crisis, a financial hardship that materializes out of the blue, a dire health diagnosis?

My friend offered this suggestion: “The key to dealing with the late-breaking curves life throws at us is to keep our eyes not on the problem or on what we think the solution is, but on the One who can knock the problem out of the park – on our Lord.”

That’s why I find passages like this one from my biblical friend Isaiah so comforting: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

And Isaiah’s old buddy, Jeremiah, presents this divine promise: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Even if you’ve never played an inning of baseball in your life, be assured the “curveballs” will come. So put on your batting helmet, crouch in the batter’s box, wait for the pitch – and try to keep your eye on the ball. But when you swing and miss, as we all sometimes do, be assured God is standing there with you. He won’t let you strike out.

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