“One of the beautiful things about baseball is that every once in a while you come into a situation where you want to, and where you have to, reach down and prove something.” — Nolan Ryan
The boys that I coach often hear two phrases from me: “Hustle!” and “Swing Big!” These are common phrases for any little league coach, and any parent can expect to hear them at their child’s baseball game. However, I think it’s worth asking ourselves why we say them. Like many things we do and say, the purpose matters.
Anywhere kids are on a team, you will find both parents and coaches, to whom winning the game is all that matters. When that is the case, “Hustle!” and “Swing Big!” are simply commands for the sake of contributing to the team’s chances of winning. The player becomes a pawn for the sake of a team victory. They are taught to do what it takes, at that time, for an immediate victory. This profits the coach and the parent more than the player. It’s no wonder so many people can only see as far an instant gratification at the expense of the individual. (That’s how bullies are made.)
Of course there is the other end of the pendulum. I am just as bothered by the common phrase, “The number one rule is having fun.” If pushing people to seek immediate victory makes them selfish, then this rule makes them lazy and afraid to ever raise the bar in life. This mentality leads to the generation that wants to contribute nothing to society nor seek to better themselves because they have been taught that immediate happiness is all that matters. (That’s how victims are made.) I cannot decide which is more harmful to our youth.
When we read the scriptures, that is the entire Bible—not just select phrases from Jesus—but all of His Bible, we find a pattern that says a lot about God’s character and how He feels about mankind. Throughout the scriptures, God is persistent in pushing the people to seek holiness; that is, to set themselves apart from the typical worldly ways for the sake reaching their full potential. You see, there is nothing a person can do that is more authentic then to set their lives apart for God’s use.
When we do this, we will find that our lives are also meant to exist for the sake of investing in others. Investing! That’s the key word: investing. Investing is not ignoring others and assuming that anything they do should be tolerated so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. That is indifference, and it is infinitely worse than hatred! Investing also means that we don’t “flip” people by putting as little as we can into them in order to get as much out of them as possible. That, like tolerance, demeans the value of the individual.
Like God, we are to invest in people. We should seek to pour ourselves out for the benefit of others. We should help others to realize that they were created by an amazing, loving God, who relentlessly pursues them for the sake of revealing how much they really are worth and how great their potential really is. This is investing—looking to the bigger picture.
I often tell my boys, “Hustle!” and “Swing Big!” but I also remind each of them that I do so because I know there is great potential in each of them. I don’t want them to be afraid to aim for the wall and sometimes—maybe even always—come short of it. I want them to seek to be the best human being they can possibly be. And I know that it takes encouragement and structure for that to actually happen. I don’t want them to just meander through life without a sense of urgency. I want them to spend every minute of it trying to access every bit of their potential so that they can go forward and change this world as God desires. We should desire to help our youth become people of integrity!
I love baseball because it was in that context that I was taught to stretch myself. For some, it’s football, for some its band, for some its academic, or any number of others pursuits. But whatever you do, do it in a way that invests in the future, and do it in a way that exemplifies God. Do it in Godly love, and Godly passion. You may be surprised at how it causes people to grow.
Please come join us as we fix our eyes on Jesus. We meet Sundays at 9 a.m. for Sunday school and 10 a.m. for worship. Everyone is welcome!