This past week, my father retired from coaching high school baseball. In a game where statistics measure a man’s value and achievement, Coach’s stats reign supreme.
I’ve learned a lot from my years in the stands, watching a legend in the making and more ballgames than any girl could ever imagine. I grew up also cheering for my brother, Casey, an accomplished baseball player and Western Kentucky University standout. Then I fell in love with his teammate, Wade, and we married soon after he was drafted professionally by the Tigers. Needless to say, I know baseball. I know ballplayers. And I really know the bleachers. After all that baseball, here’s what I came up with:
It’s easier to play the game from the bleachers.
If you’ve ever sat next to a fan who is shocked when a player drops a ball, strikes out, or falls victim to any other mishap, you know what I mean. From the vantage point of a chair-back, some folks won’t ever understand how much is truly at play during every pitch. Isn’t it the same with life?
I remember before I was a mother, I sat silently on the sidelines of singleness and made the list of things I would never do.
I would never give my kids that.
I would never take my kids there.
I would never let my kids do that.
I would never… Never… Never…!
And guess what? Along came my own children—the most amazing celebrations of life and grace and blessings—and I understood. I understood that it all looked so much easier until it was my kid with the Cheeto up his nose. The spectator-world doesn’t know it may be long past naptime or how maybe I’m celebrating a long-awaited parenting victory….and if that comes in the form of Cheetos or cartwheels, watch out! We quickly learn to quit saying “never” as young parents, but until we walk in someone else’s stinky cleats or really experience life abundantly, we are prone to judge one another’s performance. [Side note: There actually is a “Lists of Never’s,” but I didn’t make it. God provided us with The Ten Commandments thousands of years ago as a starter’s guide for the good life.]
This game will never be postponed due to rain—real or metaphorical. No one gets to sit the bleachers in life. There’s no luxury of spectatorship when it comes to sanctification. We must be active participants in the journey to Heaven—recipients of His saving grace! In this most important game, we score some victories, and we all make a bunch of errors. Circumstances are most often out of our control, but we give it all we’ve got anyway.
Parents, the greatest advantage we can give our children is to be like an invested, seasoned coach. Good coaches instill knowledge of the game, proper form, and how to adapt in various situations. Then, a good coach can stand back and be amazed at the creativity and natural gifts of the players—our children. I’m thankful no one is tracking my parental statistics… like how many times a day I’ve lost my patience or lovingly looked into my child’s eyes… the number of baths in organic-lavender-bubbles or our weekly Chic-Fil-A nugget consumption. Hopefully, I’m teaching my boys how to live mindfully of the sacrifice of our Savior, to love Him, and to love one another. I pray I lead by example in how to live balanced, joyful, thankful lives.
My father, Coach Hamilton, is that legendary, invested, tireless coach—on and off the field. And he has the support from my mother, another rock star. I’m thankful for the advantage I’ve been given by having two amazing parents. But there is good news for everyone: we all have a good, good Father. And Jesus’ mom, sweet and strong Mary, is the greatest example of maternal love He ever created.
As one great coach retires, hundreds of ballplayers reflect on a man’s career and the positive difference he has made in their lives. I’m a proud daughter. I’m most thankful for my father’s example in teaching us how to show up and play the game of life… especially how to arise gracefully after any defeats and, well, we got a lot of practice on how to celebrate! 😉
Happy retirement, Ball-Ball!
For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8 (RSV)
JW and Ball-Ball at a Toledo Mudhens game in 2014.
**Featured image of bleachers by David Straight on Unsplash.