The problem with outfield

Youth-baseball-gloves “Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.'” (Luke 5:5 NIV)

I have always loved baseball, but I never really enjoyed playing outfield. The action in outfield was just too intermittent and I have always been a kinetic personality. My mother used to wonder if I had “ants in my pants.” A valid question considering my love of the outdoors. But no, I just loved to be in motion.

The other problem with outfield was the failure/success ratio. I can remember games in little league where only one or two balls would be hit to outfield in an entire game. That’s a lot of pressure for a kid.

For the first couple of innings I’d be out there thinking and praying, “Lord, I’m ready. Let me catch one. OK this guy’s a lefty. I’m shifting. I’m ready, let me catch one…” This internal litany would continue throughout the first part of the game, while I rhythmically punched my fist into my glove and joined the team’s verbal “chatter.”

But if I hadn’t had a ball hit to me after three or four innings, the litany would change, “Lord, please don’t let them hit one out here. Let them strike out. I don’t need to catch one this game. Just let me be good at bat…” After a few innings with no activity, I went cold. I became nervous and fearful. I was afraid of failure.

An even worst scenario was when I missed a catch early in a game. This failure would so demoralize me that I couldn’t stop replaying the error in my mind. It’s like that one failure would become the enemy of my future success. I’d start playing it safe, afraid to charge the ball, not wanting it to get past me. Instead of running and diving for the ball, I would wait for the first hop, not wanting to fail again. Baseball wasn’t fun on days like that. My fear of failure stole the joy of the game.

Life and playing outfield have a lot in common. As a pastor I’ve had plenty of failures and successes. There’s the family that left our church because they didn’t feel my preaching was “deep” enough. Followed by the visiting preacher who told me he thought I was the best preacher he’d heard in Wilson. There’s the couple whose marriage failed even after I had spent hundreds of hours in counseling with them. Followed by the couple who told me that my prayers and counseling had “saved their marriage.” There was the Wednesday night Bible study where only two people showed up and they looked around at the empty room and decided to leave. Followed by a record-breaking Easter Sunday where people got saved and baptized.

When Jesus called Peter to go out into deep water and cast his nets for a catch, Peter had just come off of a night of failure. He had worked hard all night and hadn’t “caught anything.” Peter hadn’t quit the game of fishing, but he wasn’t ready to go back out yet. He was doing important stuff. The nets needed washing and mending. He was good at that. He would play it safe. He would go out again, soon, but not yet.

But Jesus called Peter to go back out immediately. Not only that, He called him to go deep. Not just in the shallows close to shore, but out there in the deep water, where the risks are greatest. And Jesus asked Peter to do one more thing, “let down your nets for a catch.” He challenged Peter to believe. He wanted Peter to learn to trust Him for success.

I’ve noticed that a past failure is perhaps the greatest enemy of future success. A failed business, a failed relationship, a failed attempt at a dream and we’re ready to give up. We become fixated on the time we “worked all night and caught nothing,” instead of obeying the Lord who calls us into the deep to make a “catch.”

I believe that the Lord is calling us into the deep now. Let’s put our past failures behind us. Let’s prepare to run and dive for a catch!

One Response to “The problem with outfield”

  1. Mike Wheeler

    I know exactly what you mean Gary. I started baseball in left field, but even that position wasn’t active enough for me. I would daydream…. I was bored…. I just felt alone out there, but I made enough catches to keep myself in the lineup. I couldn’t stand to lose. Then a coach taught me, “In order to be a good winner, you have to learn to be a good loser”. Being obedient is a discipline which is well worth practicing. The only failure is if we don’t learn from our past experiences.


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