“To be alive is to be broken; to be broken is to stand in need of grace. It is only through grace that any of us could dare to hope that we could be more like Christ.”
The best way that I can describe to you the emotion I have experienced in the past 8 months is that someone close to me died.
The reality of ending my softball career has been the biggest loss I have yet to experience in my short and incredibly blessed life. In fact, the pain has been so real that words typed on the screen cannot even come close to describing the hurt, the loss of identity, purpose and the self-searching that I have experienced. So much, that the only metaphor I can think to describe the feeling to is death. Maybe you have been faced with a similar loss as I have and you can try to understand. If not, hang with me.
The recognition I received for softball started my sophomore year of high school. I made First Team All-State, which is incredibly rare as an underclassman at a 6A high school in Kansas. The next year, I was the local kid at Lawrence Free State High School, along with my sister, to verbally commit and sign to play at my dream school, the University of Kansas. As a freshman in college, I started every game in left field. As a sophomore, I led the NCAA in grand slams and got all-conference honors. As a junior, I broke the school record for batting average, was honored First Team All-Big 12 and Academic All-American honors. As a senior, I held the school record in single-season batting average, career batting average, RBIs, and I was honored as an All-American. Even more, I was offered a chance to continue my career in the National Pro Fastpitch league, being drafted No. 11 overall to the Chicago Bandits.
No matter how hard I fought to compete for the glory of God, it was a constant struggle to not live in and relish the recognition I received. Softball has given me and taught me so much, and not in spite of years of hard work and passion that I poured out for the past ten years or more.
To make the story even more interesting, I had a choice to continue my playing career this summer in the professional league, and I chose to walk away.
I first felt convicted of this decision to move forward in a hotel room a few weeks before the NPF season ended. Actually, this connects back to the last entry that I wrote on August 21, 2013. It was this conviction that started my 8-month break from writing in this blog. I stopped, selfishly, because I was in need of healing. I was in a season of silence in order to take myself away from any outside influence so that I could focus solely on my new marriage, transition graduating from college, and my relationship with the Lord.
I was not born to be a softball player. I was born to be a disciple of Jesus. I needed to let go of the one thing in my life that I continued to place before my relationship with God.
I sat face-to-face with this reality a few months ago. In reading my Bible during a normal quiet time, I was reading through Colossians and saw these words “…Christ in you, your only hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). In my journal, I wrote the question: Who’s glory do I seek? When staring at this question, in my heart I knew the answer. The previous four years, I undoubtedly fought to seek God’s glory in the midst of the call to play softball at Kansas and in Chicago. However, when He called me to move on this past year, I continued holding on to the identity of pro softball because I was not ready to give up the “worldly glory” that came with it.
After facing this reality, the Lord continued to direct me to His Truth.
Philippians 3:13-14 says, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
God had placed so many things ahead of me in my life: a new marriage, relationships, a passion for coaching, and opportunities to travel this summer; yet, I had a firm grip of the past and didn’t want to let go, even when I knew He had a new path for me.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
If I were going to chase any one thing in my life, wouldn’t I want that one thing to be never ending, never fading, and eternal? I could chase my playing career and the glory that comes with it, but that is transient and temporary. Whether it was another playing season, or two, or five, or ten, at some point, my softball career would come to an end. Yet my relationship and my hope in Jesus will never come to an end, it will never fade. Jesus is the one thing that is eternal. It’s His Glory that will last for all of eternity, not my own. Isn’t that the glory I want to chase?
I needed to begin the process of exploring who I am in Christ, just me. No softball. That was my conviction. Even after I made the decision, it wasn’t a sudden sense of freedom. For many days, I lived with the guilt, doubt, fear, and regret of my very own decision. But in the midst of doubts, I chose to have faith in where God was leading me. He gave me freedom to trust Him in the midst of my brokenness.
In contrast to the way I probably make my life appear from the surface or especially on social media, I truly don’t have life all together. I am just as broken, imperfect, sinful, and lost as the rest of us. It has been in this season more than any other that I have come face-to-face with that reality. I can’t make it on my own. I need grace.
I started off this entry with a quote from a book I recently read called The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. How beautiful that truth is! I am alive because I am broken! Because I am broken, I stand in need of grace, because I will never earn the love or the glory of God by my own doing. Only through God’s grace could I ever hope to continue to run the True Race marked out for me, to finish the race in His glory.
Stay tuned because I am ready to start writing again as I continue to take on this transition from a player to a coach, but also and always, an imperfect sinner in need of a Savior. My only hope is that by His grace, He might use my story to encourage a few others along the way.