Too often I lose sight of God. Fear gets in the way, and instead of living a life free in grace, I draw inward into a swamp that smothers the hope out of me. I become critical, struggling to swim out of a suffocation, eyes lost. I am alone, weak, and perishing.
I lose sight of His promise that has made me free. I forget his miracles and the Words shaping me by His character. I forget the story that has been made by God and designed by Him and includes us all and is good. I forget that I am born to have courage. In my faith, the faith that He has designed for me, my natural state is to be couragous. When I see Him in that faith, I find it.
When I was a boy, I played Little League, and there was a pitcher there who was bigger and more wild than all the other pitchers in the valley, and we were terrified by him. In one of the two games that our team faced him, he hit our girl second baseman, and she cried on top of home plate, and had to be carried to first base. In that season, I was terrified that the ball he flung at us was much harder than our skin, bruising our bones. Fortunately, I was never hit by him — but I never faced him, either.
Yet I am haunted by the pitchers out there who have flung balls singed with fire at me so that I would duck and turn and take my eyes off the game–off the place where I am designed to be, in the game. Those pitchers are always bigger than me, full of weapons, of strange English that bends their fireballs across the plate so that I cannot connect and put the ball in play like I’m supposed to, if I had courage.
Fortunately, Jesus drafted me. I am thankfully on His team. He is my Coach. He’s faced every pitcher you or I could ever imagine or conceive, and has been hit by them all. He knows the story of a good bruise when you get one. He loves gamesmanship, of outlasting fear, of keeping one’s eye forever on the game. Jesus played the game for me, and He knows how to coach me through each pitcher I face.
We live in a world that is determined to destroy us. There are things out there with fire-eating fastballs that are written and programmed to come straight at us, to hit us, to take us out of the game. But Jesus is our Coach. He lives inside us. There is no pitcher greater or more deadly, more crafty or more cunning, who can hurl a spiked ball at the King who bats with a tree.
Jesus took it all on the cross. One Man. One game. Cruel rules. Swallowing it all. Jesus took the humiliation, the pain, the fear, the weakness. He took on the bully club. He took it all. And with the cross in His Keep, he launched all the death, and all the destruction, and all the fear, and all the pain, and every imaginable humiliation and defeat and loss and hurt into a netherworld far away from the stadium that He has designed, everlasting.
If I am free, I am free because Jesus lives in me and plays the game for me, in me, by His Spirit, forever one. Just to let Him play, just to let Him have His fun in me, just to let Him do what He craves to do with my life, with my sport, with my game, is the good courage I can have. Just to let Jesus prove to me that He already won; that it’s a free ride around the bases with me on His back–that is good courage. He is the teamster I long to emulate, the Man in the trenches, tough. Physical. Brave. Fighting. Willing to do whatever it takes to bring His team a win.
God tells me He was a tender shoot growing up, like a “root out of dry ground (Isaiah 53:2), and that He did not cry out or raise His voice, nor did he desire to bruise even a reed or douse a smoldering wick (Isaiah 42: 2,3). Jesus is gentle and kind, and desires peace at every moment. But if He is tested to fight for others–for us–to do what His Father asks Him to do, He becomes the Greatest Athlete, the most courageous competitor, willing to give His blood, His life, to bring his team a win.