WORDS FROM W.W. May 8, 2013
I was playing my first softball game in a decade. It had been so long since I’d played that I had to dig to the bottom of the “odds and ends” barrel in our garage to find my mitt. Unfortunately, I could not find my old pair of rubber cleats that I used to wear. They probably made their way to Goodwill a few years ago, and have since gone on to “Glove Glory.” So I fished out an old pair of tennis shoes that were missing a few years of thread and headed for the ball park.
I had told our manager, Kimberly, that I was content to “ride the pine” (except it was aluminum), but she said “No, everybody is playing.”
I didn’t even have to share my career stats with her. This might be a similar story to the movie “The Natural”, starring Robert Redford, about a former player, Roy Hobbs, coming back to play after disappearing for a few years.
It might be…but it isn’t! If there was a sequel entitled “The Elderly” I could have played the lead.
After a less than memorable first two times at bat, but a nice backhand glove pick-up at third of a screaming grounder, I came to bat for the third time in the fourth inning ready to hit opposite field. The pitch was begging me to hit it, so I pounced on it and hit an almost-line drive that actually landed just inside the first-base line just out of the infield.
“Run, Forest, run!”
I made the turn at first base to head for second as the ball continued to bounce away from the first baseman and right fielder.
The capacity crowd of four woke up and cheered (I think).
Then it happened. I had a tennis shoe blow-out fifteen feet past first base. I hit black ice disguised as dirt…and I fell hard…I mean the ground shook…almost!
My left knee hit the ground first and then my right leg took an unnatural twist…better known as “An AARP side effect”…and I felt the muscle pop. It’s quite a mental shift to hit safely and then fall hard. Come to think of it, first base has been my injury nemesis in the past as well. About 20 years ago I hit a ground ball to the short-stop whose throw to first base was a little up-line. It connected with my jaw and broke it in two places. I was safe at first that time, also, and then slumped to the ground.
Some have reminded me that I hit 59 last Sunday, so there must be some correlation between 59 and falling hard. Perhaps my old cleats being at Goodwill had something to do with it just as much! I’m going with the cleats story.
It reminds me of the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 18 where he defeats the 450 prophets of Baal. He is in the groove, on a tear! But then Jezebel makes death threats, and Elijah falls hard. He goes down. His stumble takes the form of a flee for his life and then a hiding in a cave.
Sometimes our stumbles happen as quickly as trying to turn a single into a double. Sometimes our stumbles happen gradually as we allow pride, power, and position to blind us to the cliff we are hovering on.
Following my stumble something else happened that is significant. After I hobbled back to first base and got a sub to take my place, my teammates came to my rescue with concern (and maybe a little chuckling) and encouragement. Thelma, a lady I deeply admire and respect, asked me about a dozen times during the rest of the game if I was okay. Others gave me pats on the back. No one said “That should be a lesson to you about whether you should be playing this game or not.”
When someone in the faith community stumbles there needs to be someone to pick him back up again. Being the church is not a spectator sport.
After my Roy Hobbs hit and titanic crash…we all went out for ice cream! There’s just something extremely right about that!