Middle Relief

Posted: October 2, 2010 in Articles

Isn’t it a huge boost to the old self confidence when your boss, your coach, someone you respect and admire says, “You are the man for the job” or “I need somebody to take care of this and you are my choice.”? Especially when the task you have been given is something you either want to do or feel you is something you have been called to do. I use the latter because what if the one who gave you the nod is God? More on that in a bit.
When I think of ‘getting the nod’, I immediately think of a relief pitcher. Go figure. More specifically, I think of a middle reliever or a set up guy. For those non-baseball fans, the job of the middle reliever and set up guy, while they are not exactly the same, is essentially to take over for the starting pitcher and shut the opposing team down until the closer is brought in to seal the deal. While I never pitched in the big leagues, or beyond high school for that matter, I have been brought into games as middle relief and asked to, “get us through this inning,” or told, “gimme 6 outs. That’s all we need.” Some of those times were less stressful and important as others. But anytime we are asked to ‘take the mound’, we are literally on an island (take a look at the pitcher’s mound on a baseball field), alone, and totally exposed. We are on the spot and we must deliver or our team loses. It’s that simple.
Now, in the case of the ‘6 outs’, if the next 6 batters are players we are familiar with, know their weaknesses or how to get them out, or they are 8 year olds hitting against a 16 year old, we feel pretty confident and have no reservation about ‘taking the hill and flinging the pill.’ However, when the next 6 batters are completely unfamiliar to us and word on the street is that they are first round draft picks of the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Dodgers, Braves, and D’Backs and will be heading straight to the show after our game, that is a completely different scenario and one that will throw a little apprehension into the mix. Let’s add to the scenario that everyone we know or have known is in the stands or watching, as the game is being televised nationally and on Armed Forces TV around the globe, and our team’s future, to include the well-being of our families, are on the line and dependant on our ability to ‘get 6 outs’. Despite the confidence we may have in our ability to throw a baseball, the scenario presented is one that would cause the butterflies to stir in even the most seasoned, experienced, and “faithful” pitcher…at any level. Much less one that is 16 years old.
When we are called by God to ‘take the mound’ we oftentimes feel like that 16 year old in the last scenario. And despite the confidence we have in ourselves and in our ability, we often feel overwhelmed, apprehensive, probably a bit inadequate, and, quite frankly, scared. And when God calls us, especially into ministry leadership, a great deal is at stake (as in the last scenario) and we are out on the island. The opposing batters want nothing more than to put a pounding on the new guy on the mound, bat through the order a couple of times, and put a monster number of runs on the scoreboard. However, as the old adage goes, God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. And despite the lonely feeling we may have standing alone on the pitcher’s mound, we are not alone. As God was with Moses, Joshua, David, Gideon, and so many others whose stories and accounts are told throughout Scripture, He is with all those whom He calls. As He told Joshua, “…Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NIV), He says the same to us today.
So the next time you are in the bullpen warming up and get the nod, take the mound with confidence knowing that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is with you. And despite the line-up of opposing batters to be faced, take heart. He is with you. Besides, who do you think created the wicked 12-6 curve ball? Keep it real.

Published in Power Source Magazine, October 2010 (www.powersourcemagazine.com)

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