Last night I took Carter to restart some baseball lessons in preparation for the season. Basketball ended in February and this is the downtime between the two, not that Carter knows anything about downtime. If there is a ball and a sport available, he will play it.
My dad had come up to visit and we watched him hit in the cage, ball after ball cracking off his wooden bat.
By the end of the session, he was getting tired. His technique slipped. His arms were dropping. I could see it in his face His coach, my friend Dan Clouser, told him he had ten baseballs left.
He went through the first five and slowly set up for the end. A word came to me that was meant, I believe, for me as well as him. God will often interject these moments of learning in our lives if we are open to listen. I said:
It’s not about what you do when you arrive. It’s about how you leave.
We can’t measure ourselves in the easy times. When we are humming on all cylinders, experiencing success at work and life, finances and relationships it is way too easy to get complacent. When every day feels like a vacation, we can settle and get trapped.
The key is the point of pain. The moment when we are too tired to go on. When physically and spiritually, we are ready to quit and we feel like our time is up.
Those moments are the learning points. They are where we expand and grow. They lead our faith to greater heights and depths.
Carter looked at me, set himself up, and hit the last few baseballs. I prayed the lesson took root and he would remember it the next time he was tired or a conflict emerged. That night, as I was in bed reading, God told me the same thing.
Remember it is not about the easy times, no matter how far away they feel.
Worship and prayer in a crowd at church is easier than when you are alone on your knees fighting a sickness or addiction. Prayer is different walking the streets of a city shining light in the midst of drugs and violence.
Scripture comes easy from a pastor with three points and some cool slides or media presentations. It is different in the middle of the night when your teen hasn’t come home yet and your heart is frozen with worry.
Faith is easy in times of provision. It is different when you’ve thrown your last $10.00 in the offering basket.
Let us make the most of our opportunities, appreciate the hard times and understand that with each victory we will get stronger. Every struggle is strength, every heartache increases our capacity for empathy, every fear makes us conquerors and every anxiety can lead new hearts to Jesus and impact eternity.
It is not about how we arrive, it is about how we leave and what we do when we are stretched to the limit. If that is you tonight, know that God is close and you will come out of this better than you’ve ever imagined.