A tough season

National | With major league baseball's pennant races coming to a climax, an outfielder with the last-place Texas Rangers reflects on perseverance when everything goes wrong

Issue: "Beating the school rules," Sept. 23, 2000

I'm sitting in my hotel room after a night game and want to share with you some thoughts on frustration and how as a Christian I try to deal with it. Tonight I was the designated hitter. That can be a great role: Just go up to the plate and bat four or five times. No defense to play. But if you're having a bad night you have more time to stew over your failures. In my first at bat I went to the plate feeling good. I worked the count to three balls and two strikes. I had taken several good pitches and was now ready to get my hit. I told myself, "There's no way this guy wants to walk you, so get in there and swing." I did. At a pitch that was just about over my head. Strike three! When I was a young player and that happened I would have thrown my bat, knocked over the water cooler, used bad language. But once, a few years ago, I prayed to God to take me out of this game if I couldn't be a positive witness. I even suggested He break my legs if need be. From that point on the Lord helped me to deal with the frustrations of this game. In my second at bat I hit a line drive up the middle that the second baseman dove for. Seeing the ball go into his glove, I peeled off and headed to the dugout. Then a fan yelled, "he dropped it," and as I looked back at the field the first baseman had just caught the ball to put me out. Oops. If I had run I would have been on first. Frustrated and embarrassed, I called myself "Dummy!" a few times. In my third at bat I came up with two outs and runners on first and second. The game was tied so I had an opportunity to be productive, and I thought I'd come through, but all I hit was a weak dribbler to the third baseman. The game stayed tied. A passage in the Bible has one of God's men crying out, "Lord, why do the wicked prosper?" In this game I have often wondered that as well. But I've realized that as Christians we are called to hold as valuable those things with eternal significance. The clutch base hit will not gain me anything for eternity. How I handle adversity, though, may gain me the privilege of talking with other players about the source of my strength. My fourth at bat was a groundball up the middle. Almost a hit but not quite. Irritating, but here's what I've come to believe: Handling frustration is not necessarily easier for the Christian, yet the peace of God is made known to those who trust in Him. It is natural to blow up, but we need to suppress that and seek to please the One who has given us life. When my fifth turn came around, the game was still tied. Runners were at first and third. I worked the count to full and again felt prepared to come through. The pitcher threw me a sinking 95-mph fastball but I managed to hit it into left field for a game-winning base hit. That felt good. As I think about the game several hours later, I know that my heavenly Father is far more concerned with my maturity than He is with my average. In years past He saw me heading down roads that led to destruction. In His grace He choose to apply heat and pressure. It was painful but it was always for my eternal good. When I was younger my passion was to get to the Hall of Fame. It's not going to happen. I have not gotten rid of all my selfish desires. The Lord is still working in me. But I have changed my sights. I want to do all I can to be of service to His kingdom, and to enter the eternal hall of fame called heaven. Tonight I got the big hit in a baseball game. It was fun. But I hope my lips sing His praises more for what He has done in my heart than for what He has allowed me to do on a baseball field. Frustration will be a thing of the past if I can only hear my Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

â€"Chad Curtis, 31, is completing his 9th major league season.

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