Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Backwards K

As a former baseball player, there’s one thing I can tell you that no ball player likes to see next to his name in the official scorebook. The backwards K.

You can stomach the occasional error (errors will happen to everyone), pop-outs, being caught stealing, or grounding into double-plays. None are as irritating as the backwards K.

For those of you who are not baseball enthusiasts, let me briefly explain what a backwards K is. When a batter strikes out, the official scorekeeper will notate it with a “K.” In fact, you have likely seen fans lining up K’s along the outfield wall at Major League Baseball games. But, the backwards K just isn’t a strikeout. It’s when you strike out looking. It’s when you don’t swing the bat. You just watch the pitch cross the plate and do nothing.

I heard a funny story recently about a tee-ball player who had some issues in the batter’s box. He would get in the batter’s box, and the coach would place the ball on the tee for him to hit it. The kid would take the bat from his shoulder to about an inch from the ball several times, as if he was just getting ready to clobber it. But he would never swing! Coaches and umpires looked at each other in confusion. This went on for a couple minutes, before the umpire finally ruled that the batter had to be called out. The result was the first-recorded backwards K in tee-ball!

Unfortunately, backwards K’s are not just relegated to the baseball field. Pitches come at us every day of our lives. Sometimes we’ll whiff at the low outside breaking ball – poor choices we made but couldn’t resist. Other times, we’ll foul tip it and get another crack at it – our first effort isn’t quite our best, but we’re given additional opportunities to capitalize upon. Other times, the ball will be screaming at us, and we have to get out of the way – these are those times when we’re under attack, spiritually or emotionally, and we have to dodge the impending danger.

But, still, too often we watch perfect pitches hit the mitt without taking our cuts. And, when we are deep in the count, we’ve got to be ready to put the ball in play. That may mean swinging at a pitch you don’t really want to swing at, just so you can stay alive at the plate.

Let me leave the baseball metaphor on the shelf for a moment. Speaking plainly, we’re either too picky, too scared, or too complacent about making decisions. We think maybe another opportunity will present itself, when the pitch God is throwing you is the one he wants you to hit.

In his book Wild Goose Chase, Mark Batterson talks a lot about the cages of fear and failure we all find ourselves locked inside.

Batterson says, “We are so afraid of making the wrong decision that we make no decision. And, what we fail to realize is that indecision is a decision. We need people who are more afraid of missing opportunities than making mistakes.”

What he’s saying is that we should avoid a backwards K at all costs. All too often, God is hurling the ball in the strike zone, and we’re afraid to take a hack at it.

Swing the bat. After all, you can never score unless you get on base!

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