Co-ed softball season might be a long seven weeks.
Last week we lost our game 28 - 3.....after only 3 innings.
A really long seven weeks.
However, I now fully understand the decision to make a mercy rule. It was merciful to call that game, let us gather our things and leave before the other team showed up to see our shame. Mercy rule indeed.
Can you imagine playing in that game? How would you handle it? Are you angry, quiet, determined, bored, stressed? I handle it by becoming the talker. Telling everyone where the next play is - how many outs there are - where they should throw the ball. At first I am not annoying, I am helpful - but then....I am annoying. Really annoying. I can't stop talking and cheering and "trying to keep you in the game" annoying.
It's like a switch goes off in my head and I can't separate real life from the game. And I feel so desperate to make sure everyone keeps going. I feel this responsibility to help everyone find a reason to play, to stay in the game. I feel like I need everyone to know what it means to play well even if there is no hope. I feel like as a team we need to find something to be joyful about even when every ball drops where we were just standing one batter ago - or every hit we get goes to the shortstop who has range from third base to second base and an even better arm - that we need to keep fighting even if every feasible hope is lost. I need you to stay in the game. I need you to see something good.
And I just can't stop; no matter if you want to be quiet or not. I don't slow down enough to wonder if maybe you need to verbalize your frustration - or maybe you need a second to sort it out in your own mind - maybe you are angry - hot - tired - bored. Maybe you have a word to offer, but can't get it in because I haven't stopped cheering long enough for you to do so.
And, I don't think you are wrong.
I am sorry for all that I have played with over the years, who have found a different way to play the game, but felt judged by me because they didn't play it my way.
Tonight my livingroom group sat around my backyard and shared what is going on in our lives - turns out, we are all fighting in our own way to understand this God that is real and right now. One of our ladies saw beauty that each one of us is in a different place with God: one wants to know why - one is so angry with Him, one is finding the courage to risk everything - one is obeying Him with his heart - one is trying to figure out if He is really the one for her - one is waiting for Him to speak - and all of us are loved and pursued by Him; and all of us desperately need Him.
I almost, for one brief train-wreck of a moment, became Jodi of the softball field. Encouraging - chanting - overtaking - but I realized I don't have to do that. Oh! My gift is to encourage and when I am doing it because I am obeying God and the Holy Spirit is coming out of me to give someone else courage - that is a win - no matter who it annoys.
But, when I do it so that I can take away a hard situation - or try to make everyone feel o.k. about what is happening - it's just not as beautiful. And that gift to encourage becomes something loud and clanging, something you want to ignore.
I am so glad that I stopped tonight because you know what? Some of the things the people in that circle are going through are really hard. And, even for a moment, I do not want to take away the true parts of their pain. It is o.k. for them to struggle. Right now, they are having it handed to them. For some of them, every move they make, seems to be the wrong move, another hit drops in, another run is robbed. They can't win. And listening to me cheer in the background and tell them that they should find something different to play for - beg them not to give up ... it's just not helpful.
Tonight, they needed me to lose the game with them, and let it be o.k. that losing was really hard - Playing was really hard. It was o.k. to just respect that; rather than try to fix it. And, for the future, I am working on a quieter, more
respectful, wiser, and less desperate way - to say "Keep going.
We can start right where we are at. Every at bat, every hit, every ball
pitched - it's just another step in a story that hasn't been finished
yet. And, at the end of every game, no matter how ugly - you and me - we are still a team - and the next game starts at 0 - 0. We can do this."
So - whatever you got to do - be quiet, be angry, be sad, ask questions - do it. And then show up again next week, so we can keep facing whatever comes at us next - together.