Dear Younger Me Series - "Step Out of the Boat" by Mike Schonebaum

This week's "Dear Younger Me" letter is written by Mike Schonebaum. Mike is a supporter of Complete Game Ministries and loves looking through the lens of ministry done through the platform of sports. Mike's story is one that will grab anyone who has experienced difficulty or doubt in their walk with Christ. In the end, his encouragement to "step out of the boat" will ring true to all of the baseball community. Mike's son, Calvin, is a junior at Valor Christian High School this spring.

Dear Younger Mike,

You will have a blessed childhood growing up in Lakewood, Colorado. You will take guitar lessons, learn how to swim and create many childhood memories. You will play football, basketball and baseball beginning at eight years old. You will meet your best friend Byron on these sports teams because you end up playing on all three teams together from eight years old until you are fourteen. You will then move apart as you go to different schools.

You will continue to play football and basketball in Junior high school, which at this time went to the 9th grade, but an experience with a coach will cause you to stop playing when you go to high school. You will try out for baseball but get cut and decide not to go out again. Looking back you will regret this decision but it leads to other blessings.

Your mom will take you to Sunday school and church when you are growing up, starting your faith walk. Although you won’t invite Jesus into your heart until Byron invites you to an event at his Christian high school. You will walk away thinking that is strange but you also feel something has taken place.

During high school, with sports out of the picture, you start working at Casa Bonita and will work the three years through high school. You will learn a lot about responsibility, gain some leadership skills, and you will meet some life-long friends. You will be asked many times if you are a diver but you will have to say no. Although, you do jump in the pool late one night with a group of co-workers after you have completed a late night clean-up. (But don’t tell anyone, you don’t want to get fired.)

After graduation you decide to go to Colorado State in Fort Collins where you will meet back up with your best friend Byron. You join a fraternity together. You will be the elected to the executive board as Secretary for a semester and the following semester you will be elected President. The leadership training and experiences will be life changing - pay attention!

You will also get back to playing sports and have your “glory days” moment when you as QB and Byron as RB play on one of the fraternity flag football teams. You will be on the misfit team, the team with players who haven’t played any form of organized football. You and Byron will teach and lead the ‘misfit’ fraternity flag football team to the Fraternity Championship, even beating your own fraternities ‘stud’ team during the fraternity tournament. Your flag football team will eventually lose to the red-shirt football players by a score of 18-12 in the semi-finals of the college wide flag football intramural tournament. Your team will finish in 3rd place overall. Not bad for a bunch of misfits.

All this time at college you will feel God calling but you keep pushing him away.

After college you will work for a CPA firm and an oil and gas company. While at the oil and gas company God begins to pull harder to get you out of the boat and come back to Him.

A co-worker, whom you barely know, will leave the company you work for and move to another oil and gas company in the same building a few floors below. She will come up to visit her friends on a daily basis and will start to tell you about a girl that works in her office that you need meet. This becomes a daily occurrence… “Mike you need to meet this girl.”   “Thanks Karen," I simply state.

She becomes like the persistent widow in Luke 18. To end the pestering you will tell Karen, “have her call me”… thinking she will never call. Not very nice, however, blind dates have proven to be tragic.

The next day you answer your phone at work. It is Karen. She says someone is there to talk to you. She hands the phone to a girl, you and her have no idea what is going on. Karen has tricked both of you to be on the phone together. Stepping out of the boat, you ask her to lunch. Fortunately, she steps out too, and agrees to meet. This is the start of something special…

While dating she will bring you back to the church and your faith will be revived. After two years you step out (took you long enough), and during the romantic holiday of Thanksgiving, you ask Stephanie to marry you. She says yes!

Your wedding plans are progressing well. Everything is coming together but you will start feeling sharp pains in your joints. After a series of doctor visits to multiple orthopedic surgeons and surgery on your right ankle you will learn you have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).  Your wedding is in two months!

At this time, the prognosis for RA is not a good.  Current medications help to delay the effects but in the future there is a high probability you will be in a wheelchair later in life. You will offer to postpone/cancel the wedding to Stephanie but in conversations and prayer you both decide to step out and get married as planned. After all, your wedding vows are “for better or for worse”.

You will not be able to walk up and down the stairs normally, you will not be able to open a jar of pickles and you won’t be able to do many outdoor activities.  However, the RA medicine will eventually work. After a year on the medication the RA is technically in “remission” and the joints are in good shape. Now the plan is to try and keep the disease in “remission”.

The RA will stay in “remission” and you will become active in the church. You and Stephanie will be asked to step out and be high school youth counselors and, later on, to co-lead a weekend marriage retreat with one of the pastors. You will step out further and try out for the live band playing guitar for the new Saturday night worship service. This eventually leads to being asked to further step out to sing and become a worship leader. You will be amazed how God will help guide you when you are leading worship, giving you His words, guidance, and peace.

You will talk and pray about having children with Stephanie. But to have children you will need to stop taking the medicine for a minimum of 3 months before you can try and then stay off the medicine for as long as it takes. You will pray a lot and feel pulled to step out.

After stopping the medication for six months you will be once again sitting in the doctor’s office. The RA is back, your joints are swelling and you are in severe pain. The doctor explains that you will need to go back on the medications and, even with taking the medications again, there is a decent chance the disease will not go back in “remission”. You ask if you can wait one more week. The doctor says waiting one week will be ok, but only one week. You will wait the week. Five weeks later Stephanie will tell you she is pregnant!

You will want to know if you are having a boy or girl, but decide to leave that to God and pray for a healthy baby. During the pregnancy you will be asked if Stephanie will keep working when the baby is born. You will feel God telling you to come and step out and have Stephanie resign from work and stay at home, but your current salary does not cover the monthly bills - you need both salaries. After many conversations and prayers you decide to step out. Three months after Calvin is born and the maternity leave is ending Stephanie turns in her resignation.  Two months later you will be laid off.

You had begun looking for other possibilities with the hope of getting a salary increase but now it has become even more urgent. You will be worried and wonder if you have made the right choice. Four weeks later you will receive a job offer with a salary that replaces both incomes. Six months later you will be caught in another company reorganization and laid off again, only to receive another job with a higher salary three months later. Stepping out and trusting God, although scary, has proven to be the right choice.

I do want to tell you, although you will always be on medicine for RA, the RA does stay in “remission” and you will enjoy all the activities of being a healthy husband and father – lots of family hiking trips, playing sports with Calvin, and enjoying fun-filled family vacations.

I could tell you about many other moments when God has said to come and step out and you will. And I can tell you of times when you won’t. All I can say is, “have faith and step out, it will be scary, but stepping out is where life is”…

Love,
Mike

Matthew 14:25-31: Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Bottom of the Ninth #197 - March 3, 2017