When you are an athlete, the “disabled list” is the last place you want to land. They call it the D-list, my son calls it the “depressing list.” My budding baseball player pitched a great game on May 23. And he hasn’t pitched since.
Pain in his elbow led us to Children’s Hospital, followed by restrictions and physical therapy. We will sit here indefinitely as we wait for him to strengthen and heal. Fortunately for him, he still gets to play. He can bat as many times as he wants. (different movement) and he can play in the outfield…the super far away outfield. Assuming the ball makes it to him, he is only allowed to throw it, underhanded, to another player. For a guy that rolls from the mound into Shortstop, this is a big transition. While he is quite happy to simply “be part of the team,” THIS is not the game he knows. THIS is not the game he loves.
As I sat and watched him tonight, it struck me that sometimes we all end up on the D-list. There are so many parallels to his journey through a baseball injury and my walk through life that I almost cried tonight while I watched him. Have you ever been trucking through life feeling like you had it all together? You knew your role and you played it well. In the same way that my son’s hand slides effortlessly into his glove, you slid into your space. My child knows the baseball so well that he can tell whether or not it is a good pitch the second it leaves his hand. Have you ever felt that familiar with your life? But then something happens, aging parents, cancer, loss, depression, work , struggling children… and all of a sudden, everything you know has changed. But here are a few things I’ve learned about being forced into a different position:
- The D-List doesn’t have to take us out of the game. Sometimes we will be required to step away from the position we know well to take a different role on the team. It is often for our good and it is temporary. While we are playing the “super far away outfield,” we will have less pressure and fewer expectations. The outfield is where we rest and find new ways to connect to the game.
- You can hang out in the outfield, but don’t lose your edge. Here is where you have to pay attention to the game. You can’t check out. Walking off the field is prohibited. You’ll only let your team down and you’ll hurt the whole establishment if you quit. Bottom line, the team needs all nine players. YOU are one of those players. If you aren’t there, your team can’t play their game.
- Sometimes you’ll have to rely on your teammates. When you can only throw underhanded, your teammates will have to come to you in order to make the play. You will feel restless, useless, and just basically LESS. But this is a chance for your teammates to lean into you and help you heal while still playing the game. I have sat for hours on the couch of a trusted friend while crying uncontrollably about life circumstances. Sometimes your teammates need to see that the D-list is hard for you and that you can’t ACTUALLY do life alone!
- People are watching your attitude as you play the outfield. If you were once the pitcher, and you are now taking up space somewhere between St. Louis and Texas in the outfield, people WILL watch what you do with it! Did you lose your job? Is your marriage falling apart? Are your kids riding the hot mess express? People are watching to see what this elite athlete does when he/she isn’t in the spotlight. Sometimes, the spotlight shines even brighter for those in struggling situations.
- You WILL get back to your craft. After the rest, therapy, and relying on your team, you will end up back on the pitcher’s mound. It may not feel like that will ever happen when you are staring down weeks of therapy and the pain is raw. But one day, you will make it back to the place you love and the familiar heat of that light will shine brightly on you. You’ll be in your zone, it will feel effortless again, and you’ll relish the thunderous roar of the crowd as you get back to the life you know and love. But you will be different! You’ll look at your role on the team differently. Your eyes will always be scanning the field to connect with the soul playing your spot in the outfield. You will carry an appreciation of what it means to “be back!” and you will never take that for granted. Life will look different to you. You won’t put so much pressure on the game. You’ll just be so happy that you are playing it the way you love.
If you are in the outfield of your life right now, my prayer for you is peace in the waiting! God shows up in the waiting. He literally hangs out with snacks in the “waiting!” I’ve sat with Him there before. I’ve been more than placed in the outfield. I’ve been straight up BENCHED! But God is faithful and after the required rest and learning, He places us right back into our sweet spot to play the game of our lives.
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