The Game Changer


Beginning in 1990 I spent seven seasons in the Baltimore Orioles organization as a minor league baseball player. For six months out of each year we basically lived at a ballpark, in a hotel or on a bus between those two places. Mainly at a ballpark.

We played ball seven days a week with the only variation being Sunday. On Sunday the game started at 2:05 instead of 7:05. This meant we showed up for work well before lunch on Sunday morning. There was no time for attending church even if anyone had wanted to do so. Young and invincible, most of us had little to no interest.

Occasionally on Sunday morning we had clubhouse “chapel”. A local pastor or speaker would come in and conduct a short service. The consistency of schedule varied from week to week, as did the size of the crowd.

When chapel was offered I usually went, primarily because I knew I should. Looking back, I don’t remember a single speaker or take away point from a single meeting. Except for one. I remember one vividly.

It was the summer of 1991 in High A Frederick, Maryland and we were on the road in Winston Salem, North Carolina. The speaker that morning looked to be in his late 20s to early 30s. He had spent much of his prior adult life addicted to drugs.

Though he had been clean for a couple of years I remember the physical damage caused by his past lifestyle was still obvious. I also remember he seemed very happy.

He told us of his personal battle in detail. How he had burned every bridge in his life until he had none left to burn and nowhere left to turn. How it took hitting rock bottom and no remaining options before he finally decided to get himself clean.

“Clean” turned out to be something he could not achieve until he asked God for help.  Until he gave God permission to work in his life. The key word is “permission”.

We’ve all heard the rest of the story. God showed up. A life was changed.

While his story was interesting, it wasn’t the testimony he gave that moved me to remember him initially. It was a comment made by a team mate as we walked away. Simply put he stated, “If God lets that S.O.B. in heaven then I ain’t got nothing to worry about”. My thought then was the same as it is today……… That’s not how it works.

Regardless, my team mates comment served to drive that fifteen-minute chapel, the speaker, and his story into my mind. As the years have gone by it has remained there but the story, the story has evolved.

A decade later, as I reached my 30s and called myself a Christian, I would sometimes think about the speaker and that day. Specifically, I would wonder what would lead a young man to get up on a Sunday morning to go talk to a bunch of kids he didn’t even know?

What would lead him to pour his guts out to strangers about the mistakes he had made and talk passionately about the God that had saved him from himself? What did he have that I did not?

It never crossed my mind to do such things. What would I even say to other people?  

Another decade later, as I reached my 40s, I began to battle my own demons. My demons were feelings of inadequacy, a lack of meaningful purpose, a lack of passion for anything in this world that resembled the consuming fire that had burned inside of me to be a professional baseball player.

My battle wasn’t a mid-life crisis either, because I had packed a lifetime of worldly living into my 20’s and 30’s. Heck, I was even in a movie. I was just empty, and I was running out of things to fill the empty with.

Several years ago my “40s” became “late 40s” and I reached the end of myself. Just like the speaker, I gave God permission to work in my life as well. You drive, I’m tired is a fitting description. It was like a giant weight had been taken from me. Empty began to become full.

Just like the speaker stated 27 years ago, I have heard numerous times from other people that traveled the same road and I have experienced myself……… God showed up and a life was changed. That is THE common denominator, along with a deep desire to tell other people about it!

Arriving at a surrendered point in my life allowed me to answer the question above that had evaded me for so long. “What leads someone to share with others what God is doing in their life”? The answer is this…….

You move past religion to a personal Spirit filled relationship with The Living God, through His son Jesus Christ.

It is that personal relationship that unleashes the power of the gospel, the Holy Spirit, to work in a human life. It repairs people. Then moves those people outside of their comfort zone to reach others, through them. It is a game changer!

It will bring a drug addicted man to “clean”. Then lead him to a baseball field on a Sunday morning to tell a handful of baseball players of the wonderful things God has done and is doing in his life.

Just like it will pick an empty former baseball player up off the floor. Then lead him to write stories and tell others of the wonderful things God has done and is doing in his life.

To the speaker that Sunday morning in Winston Salem, North Carolina. I get it now. Thank you for your time and your testimony.  It made a difference in at least one.

Get in the boat.  Do your part.

Shane / #16

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