Nine year old Adelade is playing her very first year of softball. We bought all of the equipment and started about three weeks ago trying to get her psyched up to play. She really didn’t want to sign up, and we had no high hopes that she would become some sort of little ponytailed softball sensation.
But, a funny thing happened when she put on that new neon glove and her awesome hot pink and black baseball cleats. She suddenly felt like a ball player. And she told us that she wants to try and learn how to pitch.
Well, you can imagine that this was glorious music to her daddy’s ears, so they started spending lots of time in the backyard practicing her pitching. I watched from the window while Adelade threw pitch after pitch to Chad. She can throw hard, and sometimes she was dead on, throwing the ball straight into her daddy’s glove, like she has been pitching softballs her whole life. And other times the ball would suddenly be wildly out of control, usually going up and over our fence instead of into the mitt where Adelade was aiming.
Watching her made me smile a little ruefully as I thought about how my own Christian walk looks a lot like a nine year old girl trying to learn to pitch. Sometimes I’m right on target, going along saying, doing, thinking, and feeling what pleases God, and then suddenly, out of no where, my thoughts or attitudes or the things I say and do are just wildly out of control. I can promise you that I had a day or two (or seven) last week when my heart was as off course as Adelade’s stray pitches. So, what can I do?
I can practice.
Adelade’s pitching isn’t going to suddenly become sensational just because she wants it to. She has to get out in the yard, get hot and sweaty, and keep trying even though her arm gets tired, even though frustration sets in, even though she starts wondering if she will ever throw another good pitch. The more she is out there throwing the ball, the more she will begin to learn the best way to make the ball go straight and strong into the catcher’s mitt.
If I give up and say, Look, I’m never going to be able to make my heart react the way I want it to, then I will never grow and mature, learning the best ways to keep my heart on course and in line with the promptings of the Holy Spirit. But, if I continually work to steer my thoughts and feelings toward godliness, if I always keep Christ in sight as my target, then I will begin to get somewhere in growing and maturing in the faith.
We don’t have to say This is how I am and I will never be able to change. We can determine that with God’s help we WILL steer our hearts toward His goodness and mercy and love, and since the Bible tells us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, we will soon begin to see that our words and actions begin hitting the target more often, too.
Adelade will likely spend many more hours in the backyard this softball season, learning how to throw straight. I hope that when I see her out there I’m reminded that I need just as much practice, working with the Holy Spirit as He trains my heart and mind to respond to life with the love of Christ and nothing less.
And, when you see me in the stands cheering loudly for my little girl, hopefully you won’t hear me say a word about how the umpire needs glasses. He is obviously a man of great wisdom and judgment.
See? I’m already practicing.