Today, I want to tell you a story about some pretty wise kids and a pretty proud mama.
Life Lessons from Little League
It was the bottom of the ninth, no outs, and the score was 12 to 13. It was the last game of the season, and we finally had a chance to put a W on the board. My son’s team had lost every single game that year, some in humiliating fashion. One score was something like 18 to nothing. I’m not really sure because we stopped keeping track after the opposing team got a double-digit lead.
But this game, this game could be different. They could be the come-back kids.
“Dear God, please let them score. Please let them win this game.” I pleaded with the Almighty. I knew that there were more important things to tend to in the world like government corruption and environmental pollution and the extinction of rare breeds of animals, but surely this should register. Surely such a prayer would be answered.
But as batters one, two, and three went up to the plate, and outs one, two, and three followed, we realized it was not meant to be. There would be no win this season. There would be no victory.
“How was the game, Bennett?” I asked. Just because I loved to hear his answer.
“It was great!” He replied. As he always does in the face of what would have frustrated me to no end. How does he always see the best in things when I see what should’ve been?
I’ve always been competitive. The kind of competitive that doesn’t get you invited back to game night with the other newlyweds. The kind of competitive that harps about the rules when playing “Beat the Parents” with the kids. The kind of competitive that that keeps you running on two bum knees for six miles to complete a half marathon. Couldn’t walk for over a week, but I crossed that finish line at more than a saunter. Wasn’t pretty, but I did it.
I want to win at all costs. Well, not all costs. I do have a line. I won’t physically injure someone. But I want to win. And I don’t enjoy it when I lose.
Not my son. He is perfectly happy to be part of a team that loses all season long. He’s happy just to play. Where does that come from? Why don’t I have it?
My oldest daughter is the same way. She’s not athletic, but she always sees the glass half full.
She was the most beautiful baby, the kind a baby that gets you stopped in the store as people ooh and ahhh. Her first front teeth came in with this adorable little gap that the dentist said was perfect. That meant her big teeth would come in with just enough space and she might not need braces.
They were soooo wrong. Can you sue for unmet expectations and disappointment?
Her teeth came in at a hideously unnatural angle, jutting out of her mouth like a piece of modern art. She couldn’t even close her lips. This exquisite little child had a very unfortunate smile.
One day, I heard that a kid in her class called her SpongeBob. It was a good thing I wasn’t there. A very good thing. I read about it in her devotional diary and my mama’s heart was crushed. I know that I shouldn’t have been reading her diary, but it was open on the coffee table staring up at me. What could I do?
We took her to a slew of orthodontists and all of them said that there was nothing wrong with her teeth. She would need braces, obviously, but the only reason to do it now would be cosmetic.
One of the orthodontic assistants asked her, “Do your teeth bother you, honey?”
“I think what a person looks like on the inside matters more than what they look like on the outside,” she replied.
Seriously? This sweet child is getting bullied because of her buck teeth and she knows that she isn’t problem? My mama’s heart swelled with pride, but crumbled under conviction, humbled by a six-year-old who lived by a different set of values than me. I look in the mirror and see gravity taking hold, and I don’t think about what I look like on the inside. Nope. Doesn’t even occur to me.
Clearly, I have great kids. Kids I don’t deserve. Kids who exhibit character traits that I still need to learn.
They aren’t perfect, and there is still a lot that I can teach them, but sometimes they teach me. Sometimes they remind me that I don’t have it all figured out. Being a part of a team is important, even a losing team. Maybe especially a losing team. And what you look like on the inside is what really matters.
I know, these are simple lessons that are so obvious they sound cliché, so cliché that they are the themes of cheesy made-for-TV Hallmark movies filled an incredibly high percentage of attractive people, btw, and yet I still struggle to live by these values. I struggle to live by the ideals I learned as a child. And so, sometimes, God uses my children to teach me.
“And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” Matthew 21:16 (ESV)
Out of the mouths of babes God has prepared praise . . . and wisdom. And incredible faith.
I heard a story once of an evangelist who traveled all over the world preaching. He had a foot injury that was causing him excruciating pain. It was interfering with his ability to minister. He had some very well-known Christian leaders lay hands on him to pray for healing, but the injury persisted.
After months of this frustrating struggle, the minister was at a little church, and a precious young boy with down syndrome asked to pray for him. The preacher didn’t really have the time or the inclination to be prayed for yet again, especially by a child, but a twinge of guilt arrested his heart. Surely, he should entertain the boy’s request . . . for the boy’s sake. He limped over to the child, who said the simplest of prayers. And in an instant, his foot was healed.
How close he came to missing the miracle! How grateful he was to receive the faith of this child.
We know well the wisdom we have to learn from those who have gone before. But may we never forget the wisdom, the innocent faith and precious prayers of our youth, of those who come after.
I pray that I am never too proud to learn from my little ones. I pray that, when I need to, I am always humble enough to learn a life lesson from little league.
Catherine Segars is an award-winning actress and playwright — turned stay-at-home-mother—turned author, speaker and blogger. She is dedicated to helping other women see their worth in a season when they often feel less-than.
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