Bottom of the 9th - A Costly Sacrifice
A Costly Sacrifice
by Rick Whitfield, Coach and Teacher Valor Christian High School
As followers of Christ, we are called to live for something far greater than ourselves. In a world that celebrates the individual, Christ beckons us â€œto deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Himâ€ (Luke 9:23). This call to selflessly lay oneâ€™s life down for the sake of Christ and the Gospel is undeniable, being well supported throughout both Scripture and church history, by men and women who willingly embraced hardship, persecution, imprisonment, and even death for the sake of Christ.
When I was a senior in high school, the Lord gave me a glimpse of what this â€œcostly sacrificeâ€ can look like for a baseball team. During my sophomore and junior year, our team was loaded with talent, and ranked top 3 in the preseason polls, only to be upset and sent home early in regionals both years. My senior year we had only three returning starters to the lineup and we were not even considered in the top 10-preseason rankings. We knew we didnâ€™t have the same level of talent as the years before, yet we had also witnessed how that talent--being largely self-centered and divisive--had failed to achieve any real level of success or accomplishment in the end.
In light of this challenge, we made a decision to be different than the teams who had come before us. We chose to band together, to resist the desire of being self-focused, instead choosing to humble ourselves, and strive for unity and something greater than ourselves. We threw off the temptation to equate greatness through personal stats, acknowledgement, etc. instead viewing success only through the lens of what we could accomplish together. We certainly had a State Title in mind, but more than that, we desired to form a bond of brotherhood within our program that honored God through our unity and sought to establish a legacy for those who would come after us. As we set out on this new course we discovered early on that this kind of posture as a team would cost us something, and it did. Relationships were tested and refined, and egoâ€™s were exposed and addressed, as we sought to remain faithful to this vision. Though we were challenged throughout the season, we remained united and God truly poured out his blessing upon us. We ended up winning State that year, and it was the only State Championship that our school ever won in baseball, until this yearâ€™s team was able to capture the second state title in school history.
Winning the championship was certainly an incredible experience, and one that I think back to often; however, as I have grown older, I have come to realize that it wasnâ€™t the victory that has impacted me the most. Rather, it is the valuable life lessons that the Lord taught me through the process as we sought unity and humility as a team. Through the game of baseball I discovered the power of self-sacrifice and humility for the sake of attaining something far greater than personal success.
At the time, my vision of greatness was only as big as winning state and perhaps leaving behind some sort of proud tradition. However, as I have gotten older, Iâ€™ve come to realize that sacrifice and humility is at the core of Jesusâ€™ life and teachings and the life He is calling me to live as well. These lessons have guided me as a husband, as I seek to lay down my life for my wife, and as a father as I love and serve my children with compassion and tenderness. To be sure, Iâ€™m thankful for the game of baseball, but, as I grow older, Iâ€™m even more thankful for how He has allowed me to experience more of His life and truth through the game.
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