Some years back, I was helping with kitchen clean-up after a Sunday lunch when some children came bounding into the kitchen and begged me to chase them. We’d hosted guests, so the clean-up job was bigger than usual—but there also were more people on hand to help. I gave in to their pleading and went outside.
My mom suggested I take a kickball to make the recreation more constructive. I didn’t do much chasing before suggesting a kickball game. We found some wooden blocks for the bases and pitcher’s mound. Teams were chosen—boys against girls— and we started playing. I did most of the pitching.
The kids were pretty young, so not everyone had a firm grip on the game. It appeared that some had never played kickball. When the ball bounced to them, some chose to hang onto it instead of throwing it at a runner or to the appropriate base. Occasionally, players who were on base chased after the ball rather than running to the next base. Instead of helping their team, they were helping the competition. And, halfway through the game, some wanted to take a break.
But we kept going, and before long I took my turn at the plate. I gave the ball a good, hard kick. It took flight and landed in a neighbor’s garden. I ran the bases and was headed for home when I got nervous—not about the ball’s landing in the neighbor’s garden, but about getting hit by the ball and getting called “out” before I reached home. My concern, unfortunately, caused me to pause, and the ball found its mark as I neared home plate. I was out. My fear was realized because I had not run hard the whole way to home base.
Life lessons learned:
Don’t hang onto the ball. (Share your faith.)
Christians are people with good news. In the great commission (Matt. 28: 19-20), God gives us the privilege of being heralds of the gospel to our world. This news is for everyone. Holding onto the “ball of faith” will not benefit our neighbors, our friends, or our associates.
Stay on the field. Be dedicated to the game. (Be a good team member within the body of Christ.)
We may get tired and weary, but don’t be a teammate who takes a break in the middle of the game. The body of Christ should work together as one. It matters if the “ear” decides it is tired of hearing and just checks out for a while. It matters if the “hand” does not cover its place in the field because it is tired of helping out. It matters if the “foot” walks off to the shade instead of running the bases. It matters. You matter.
The Bible says that we are not to tire of doing well. We are called to a journey of endurance. If it’s hard, all the more reason to stay and be dedicated. If situations get testy and heated, all the more reason to remain engaged until conflict is resolved. If the problem is large, all the more reason to put one foot in front of the other until it is solved.
I’m glad Jesus didn’t didn’t quit. He “played” right through Gethsemane, Golgotha, and the garden tomb. Why? For you and for me. Why not endure for him? It’s not too much to ask.
Don’t help the opposition. (Resist Satan’s schemes to pull you away from the homeward path.)
We’re up against a roaring lion who nips at our heels, hurls arrows at our heads, and takes advantage of footholds at a moment’s notice. Although Satan’s schemes are slick and his lies may be tempting, we are enabled to do all things through Christ, encouraged through his faithful promises and empowered by the one who is able to deliver us faultless before God at the end of our journeys. The Bible tells us to resist, and Satan will flee.
Run hard. Don’t look back, or it might cost you the game. (Look to the future and aim for a glorious finish.)
“Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12: 1-2).
I was behind a school bus once when it stopped. I watched a little boy get off. He took off running, his heart into the sprint, only stopping when he reached his mother. I loved seeing his energy and excitement as he raced toward his mother..
Just like that little boy, we are in a race to win. Let’s lay aside the weight of our sins so that we, too, can run well. We can’t run well if we are constantly looking over our shoulders at the past, or if we lug along sins like pride, anger, envy, or hate, or if we hesitate before reaching the finish line.
We never get to retire from the race. We are in it as long as the Author of the race wants us there, urging us to run well.
So the next time you see a kickball game (or, better yet, participate in one), remember the following:
- Share your faith.
- Be a good teammate.
- Don’t help the opposition.
- Run hard, and don’t look back.
Somewhere along the line, that little game turned into a parable. I’m glad I stuck around to the finish so that I could hear it.
Melody Keller lives in Wales, Maine, and is a member of the Lewiston (Maine) Church of the Brethren