Humble Pie



I’ve been an athlete most of my life. My sport is softball, and I started playing the game later than some – that came as a freshman in high school.  But with two older brothers, I always wanted to be where they were – outdoors and being active.  As a little girl I loved to play Three Flies Up in the neighborhood with the boys, which is where my love for the feel of a baseball mitt began.  Ah, to hear the ball smack into the web of the glove was heavenly.  Hand-eye sports were my specialty…endurance sports, not so much. So in high school I played volleyball, softball and basketball.  I quickly realized that basketball involved quite a bit of running, so after one season of running up and down the court huffing and puffing, I told people that basketball “wasn’t my thing.”

As an adult, I settled in with softball as my best form of therapy, and I’m grateful for the lessons the game has taught me.  I wasn’t half-bad at it, and it was a great way to keep fit, work off the stresses of life, and since I wanted to be the best I could be at it I made the commitment to better myself at my sport.  I also figured out that I couldn’t excel at this sport without the balance of recognizing the one who gave me my talents.  That pride thing can get the best of me, so wisdom told me I needed to always be plugged in to that source to keep my head level. 

That meant that every time I stepped onto the field or up to the plate I whispered a prayer asking God to help me to play to the best of my ability, but more importantly to glorify Him on the field.  Somehow I got better at the game, and although I will always struggle with pride I was able to keep my head level and I formed some amazing relationships with gals who remain my friends to this day.  I’ve been able to talk about my faith and where I get my strength from on and off the field.  So as Chico Escuelo once said….”<softball> has been bery bery good to me!”

When I was in my twenties and playing short-stop on a competitive B level women’s softball team, I remember watching a gal who was 40 playing softball and I said to myself “wow…I hope I can continue playing softball until I’m 40″.  Forty seemed so far away.  I had both of my kids, and bounced back stronger and worked harder, and my team went to Nationals.

Then when I turned 40 there was no way I was ready to give it up, so I restated my goal as “if I’m able, I want to keep playing softball until I’m 50″.  My nickname during those years was Hoover – my C division coach said it was because I sucked every ball up that came near me.  Ha.  Again, 50 seemed so far away.

When I turned 50 and transitioned to third base and started playing coed ball, it seemed so absurd to me that I would give up such a huge part of my life…something that I was still good at – something that, granted…validated me.  Like I said, pride always seems to seep in, and truth be told…softball also made me feel like I could pretend I was still young.  I could dismiss the aches and pains I felt, and fool myself into believing that I was still a contender on the field in our D rec division.  I could keep up with the young gals (for the most part) and surprised myself at how I could still stay in the game.

Life is all about lessons.  And about finding grace in the lesson.  Flash forward to a few years ago and the first time a ball (hit by a dude) whizzed by my head before my body even reacted.  Uh oh.  Reality check.  Maybe its time I move to first base.  Sigh.  Aging can sometimes catch you off guard as you realize you have to say goodbye to things you use to do and it’s all a part of the fun and exciting things I’m learning to process as I age. And it’s a form of grief.

I turn 60 next year and I’m now playing E level softball.  I guess I should be happy I’m still playing ball at all.  So now I manage our coed team and play first, or catcher, or wherever I’m needed (hopefully not outfield because tri-focals don’t see the ball in the air so well) and now when I walk up to the plate or out of the field my prayer sounds more like “Lord…please help me to play to the best of my ability….and pleeease help me get a hit.” I watch the young gals hit and field the ball like I use to…and I smile, because I like to watch new young talent.  But it also makes me a little sad – because it reminds me of what I’ve lost as I age.
The coed team I currently play with has been together for 10 years, and is comprised of mostly over 40 year olds.  Our gals are strong, so we dominated the Christian league we played in, so in all fairness we thought we should move back to the city leagues and crush those poor teams there.  We took a year off, and now this is where the humble pie comes in.  We haven’t won a game yet this season.  We’re eating crow.  Again…we’re learning new lessons.  We find ourselves smack-dab in the middle of a new softball experience.  One of losses rather than landslide victories.  Having to focus to work harder on improving our abilities on the field.  Last week we played the team again that beat us 24-2 the first time we faced them.  Granted, 3 of our strongest guys weren’t there the first game, but I’m finding happy take-aways from that game simply because we only lost by 8, rather than 22.  Rejoicing in a game where we were “neck-and-neck” with a dominant team and even went ahead of this Goliath team that spanked us last time.   

I’m choosing to put my softball career into the category of “life lessons”…and to be happy with the lesson.  And God is teaching me new (and not so exciting) lessons about pride, good sportsmanship, being the underdog, and having a good attitude.  And about aging and having to start thinking about possibly giving up a sport I’ve loved for yay 47 years.  Sigh.

Our team name is Heaven Help Us and that describes best where we are having to get our strength from.  We’re having to reach down deep and actually put our faith into action on a silly softball field and rely on a God that loves to teach faith lessons in simple situations.  We are gaining momentum.  We are improving.  We may not be the best – maybe not even a contender – but we are learning great things about ourselves and what it feels like to be a loser…and to lean into God.  We’re choosing to watch for the lesson, to be Christ-like athletes, and to embrace the experience rather than pout about where God has us.  For me, that applies both on the softball field and in the aging timeline.

So I’m grateful for the lessons that softball has taught me….and continues to teach me.  And I’m grateful that grace shows up in the lesson.  Sigh.  This might be harder than I thought.

  Softball poem