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Daily Devotional: Thursday, November 17 - Who’s Having Fun?

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” — Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)

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We use the phrase “Live Sent” routinely at our church. It’s our vision for how others can find their way home to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Before He ascended into Heaven, Jesus told His disciples, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). If you are a Christ-follower, you have been sent. Therefore, we need to “live sent” to a world in desperate need of Jesus’ love.

Personally, I feel I have been sent to the youth baseball field. Actually, many youth baseball fields! I have been umpiring baseball now for five years, and I never cease to be amazed — and often bewildered and dismayed — at what I witness on and around the field. Just in the past couple weeks, I have had to initiate several conversations involving bad behavior.

One player was incensed that his coach was removing him from the mound as the pitcher. His team was down 7-0 at the time. When the coach put his hand out for the baseball, the player spiked the ball to the ground in disgust and walked off the field. The coach happened to be his dad. The player was ejected from the game and told he could not return. An inning later, the dad (coach) asked why his son was ejected. I said, “Because he spiked the baseball!” The dad replied, “Is there a rule against that?”

In another game, a 12-year-old boy was playing catcher. At the beginning of an inning, his team was up 6-1. After countless wild pitches (and perhaps a passed ball or two) and some timely base hits, the score was even 6-6 at the conclusion of the inning. As his team’s coaches were gathering the players together to encourage them, the catcher’s dad summoned him to the dugout. The dad proceeded to berate the boy, pointing his finger in his face and F-bombing him about the number of balls getting to the backstop. Not wanting to pour gasoline on a fire, I pulled the coach aside and had a pointed conversation with him. I delivered an official warning to the parent, and said if I heard or saw anything else from him, he would be excused from the park.

In another game, a 16-year-old young man was his team’s starting pitcher in an elimination playoff game. The right fielder let a blooper fall in front of him, and the pitcher unleashed a verbal tirade on him, including some F-bombs and other choice expletives. Subsequently, two other infielders booted easy ground balls, which extended the inning. The pitcher mumbled and grumbled for several more hitters, before being removed from the mound. While he was mouthing off and pointing fingers, the pitcher conveniently forgot that he had walked four batters and hit another.

When that same player came up to bat in the bottom of the inning, he grounded out to second base. Upon returning to the dugout, he slammed his helmet down, breaking off a piece of it. When the inning ended, I told his coach about all I had witnessed and heard, and told him he had better change his attitude or his day would be short.

These are just three incidents over the course of a couple weeks’ time at the same ballpark. I couldn’t contain all I have dealt with in a thousand pages!

What’s the meaning of all this? I don’t know that I have a simple answer, but one thing I can almost certainly conclude is that these boys and young men are not seeing enough people in their lives model God-honoring behavior and speech. This should be a wake-up call for our moms and dads (especially the dads). Kids mimic what they see around them. Furthermore, moms, dads and coaches are doing very little to curb these same attitudes and behaviors from recurring.

Back to “living sent.” With the poor kid whose dad embarrassed him with the verbal assault, I told his coach, “I may not be able to do anything about what happens at home for that young man, but I can do something about it at the ball field.” While the coach or the parent might see me as an adversary, I am the exact opposite. I am an advocate for their child. I very much want these boys to learn to love the game and enjoy the heck out of it while they can. Sometimes that means having a tough conversation with them, their coach or their parent.

Proverbs 22:6 (above) is foundational for families who put Christ at the center. When a boy or girl is “trained up” and repeatedly exposed to the truths of Scripture, and they see Mom and Dad putting it into practice, it’s likely they will also implement these same ideals in their own lives. Conversely, when this isn’t modeled for them, they will also put into practice what they see and hear in their formative years. This should alarm all of us!

Parents/teachers/coaches — eyes and ears are on you. Take it seriously, and also consider it the ultimate challenge — and honor — to shape boys and girls in a way that glorifies and exemplifies our Heavenly Father.

— C.A. Phillips, Communications Pastor at NorthStar Church, Kennesaw, Georgia

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