Life has taught me that there are things you see coming, and there are things you don’t.
Becoming a writer and then the author of a faith-based blog, The1SixProject, falls squarely in the I didn’t see it coming category of my life. Things like college, work after college, a wife, house, kids, dogs, the often-typical life progression I could see, but never writing.
Writing happened in my mid-forties when I arrived soundly at the end of myself and began seeking God’s will for my life. Something I now regret not seeking and then subscribing to years sooner. However, like most all new chapters in life, there is often a story behind the new chapter’s arrival. This one is no different.
As a child growing up in rural America my life revolved around family, church, and baseball. I was a left-handed pitcher and all I ever wanted to be was a professional baseball player. I mean literally, that was it. Thanks to dedicated parents, hard work and Coach Steve Kittrell’s gamble on a skinny kid nobody else wanted, I enrolled at the University of South Alabama in the fall of 1986 on a piece of a baseball scholarship.
Four years later in 1990 I was drafted in the 7th round by the Baltimore Orioles and went on to spend seven seasons in the Orioles organization before retiring at the end of the 1996 season. Tired of being injured, broke, and away from home I walked away from the only thing I had ever wanted to do, be or become in life. I was 27 years old. Now what?
The next twenty plus years of my life can be summed up like this. I went to work, met an amazing girl named Michelle, married that amazing girl, we were blessed with three sons Dylan, Brody, and Reece, I bought into the American dream, life rolled on, I came to the end of myself.
The “coming to the end of myself” part didn’t happen overnight though. That part took time.
As I reached my mid- forties the occasional skirmishes I had begun to have years earlier with my personal demons evolved into a daily battle that I was losing. The losing part was visible to no one but me.
Yes, I had a wonderful wife, healthy kids, a large and supportive family, no lifestyle issues, and an endless list of blessings. On the outside my life was grand but personally, on the inside, I was empty, hurting, spiritually shallow and facing the reality that there was an ever-growing list of things in my life that I had very little, if any, control over.
The man in the mirror was clearly aging. My father and my wife’s mother were each fighting a battle they would ultimately lose with cancer. The economy was in an absolute free fall. I constantly fought back depression, feelings of inadequacy and a growing fear of failing at my most important roles in life.
While it may sound trivial compared to the prior comments, since leaving baseball I still lacked a personal “something” in life that I was passionate and excited about. Ultimately, we all need to be on fire for “something” in this life.
This wasn’t a mid-life crisis either, because I packed a lifetime of worldly living into my 20’s and 30’s that spanned forty-two states and a host of foreign countries. Heck, I was even an extra on the Cleveland Indians team (#17) in the movie Major League 2. I was just empty and running out of things to fill the empty with.
Somewhere along the way I gave this quest to find a renewed passion and purpose in my life a secret name, “The 1Six Project”.
The name was rooted in my past baseball career and the family tradition of our jersey number, 16. My dad, John, wore 16 first as a football player for the USM Golden Eagles. I wore 16 throughout my baseball career. My oldest son, Dylan, keeps that tradition alive as an athlete today.
I grew up sleeping in my Dad’s Southern Miss football jersey and almost 50 years later I still have it, framed and on my wall. It isn’t just a number, it’s a tradition and it means something to me.
From my limited world-based view at that time, the process of getting back to the man I wanted and needed to be in life was clearly going to be more than a single event or fix. It was going to be a project. Given this, “The 1Six Project” seemed fitting.
Interestingly, I also had an inexplicable and strong conviction that this “project” was going to evolve into something bigger. Based on that strong conviction I ultimately purchased the web address for the “The1SixProject.com”.
It was a couple of years before I ever shared the name or the website I had reserved with anyone. People might think I was crazy.
As the months rolled on I began to look less for a worldly cure for what I was missing inside and more for a Godly cure. This led me to ultimately understand that I had been trying to fix my problems with more of what was causing my problems. I didn’t need more worldly success, achievements, adventure, or possessions. I needed God.
The empty space I was trying to fill inside of me is the same space we all have inside of us. It is the space that is reserved for God, and God alone. You can’t fill this reserved space with anything, and I mean anything, but God. My entire life I had been trying to fill this space with anything and everything, but God. I began filling it with what belonged there. When I did God showed up.
Eventually, I arrived at a point where I made the single most important decision I will ever make in my life, I “got in the boat”.
We have all heard of people that hand their life over to Christ in a moment but for me it was gradual transition from being first in my life to becoming second. Raised in church I had always known who God was, but prior to this point in my life I had never known Him on a personal level.
Moving from religion to a personal relationship with Christ was a new experience for me and the stronger this relationship became the more God worked in my life. Then one day, He told me to write.
For clarity, these instructions didn’t arrive while I was on a mountain top and I wasn’t standing barefoot in front of a burning bush either. I was in Loxley, Alabama attending the 2014 annual company-wide Bellator Real Estate summer meeting and I remember it well. That day the thought “I want you to write” simply would not leave my head.
My exasperated response after hours of this playing continuously in my mind was, “Write about WHAT”?! This was literally the craziest thing I had ever heard at the time. What could writing possibly address in my life, what would I write about and why won’t this thought leave my head?! I didn’t act on this for several months but the calling, that gentle nudge, would not go away.
Just so you know, God doesn’t yell. He gently persists, and it is our option to answer, or not.
Eventually, I answered and began to write. In the beginning I mostly just jotted down things that struck me, often on note cards. As I did, words and phrases began to literally jump off the page at me like they were on fire, which was a new experience for me.
These words and phrases I wrote evolved into stories that resembled short devotionals. Mostly the stories were about what God was doing in my life and revealing to me as I continued to seek Him and His will. The more seeking I did the more revealing He did. Crazy how that works.
Looking back, I understand now that God used my writing to speak to me. The inspiration for the stories came from everywhere but the actual writing part, the formulating of a story, required me to be still, sit quietly with my thoughts, research, study my Bible, and listen. That is still true today.
In the beginning this often happened in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep and there were, conveniently, zero distractions. I began to call these events “meetings”.
As time went by the same prompting that had told me to write began to encourage me to share these stories.
So, one day I took a deep breath and posted a story on Facebook. To my amazement, people responded. I continued to write and post the occasional story and people continued to respond in a positive manner. Spiritually I continued to grow, the audience grew, and doors started to open!
One day a Facebook friend named Christopher Williams, a man I barely knew and had never met in person sent me a message that stated, “You need to reach a bigger audience, I am going to build you a blog. Do you have a web address you want to use”? Yes, I did! Influenced by that inexplicable conviction I had reserved it almost two years ago…….. The1SixProject.com.
In the spring of 2016, The1SixProject was launched. Since then I have posted 87 stories to the site. Site analytics tell me that collectively over 77,000 stories have been read by over 69,000 people in 96 different countries. I look at it this way. I followed God’s direction and He used that obedience to make over 77,000 faith-based impressions on over 69,000 souls literally around the world. How cool is that?
As Christians we are to be vessels through which Christ’s message is delivered to those around us.
For the record, and this is important, I take absolutely ZERO credit for any of this. I obeyed God’s command to share what He was doing in my life through writing and the rest just literally unfolded in front of me over time. That’s how it works!
As evidenced by this story that has been published in a popular local magazine, doors have continued to open. God continues to bring people into my life that support me and strengthen my walk as a Christian and most importantly, The Gospel continues to be shared.
Along with the creation of The1SixProject blog in 2016 there were four “1:6” verses that were one by one revealed to me. Collectively these events left no doubt in my mind that this was God working in my life and I just needed to continue to “do my part”, which is to continue seeking Him wholeheartedly. Those four verses are:
- Philippians 1:6 – He who began a good work in you will see it through to completion…..
- Philemon 1:6 – Be active in sharing your faith…….
- Romans 1:6 – You are among those who have been called to belong to Christ….
- James 1:6 – When you ask, believe, and do not doubt……
Looking back, perhaps the bigger purpose of my baseball career was to set the table for this, The1SixProject? There is no denying that God used that chapter of my life to help me find my way back to Him and a renewed purpose in Christ.
Two decades after walking away from baseball I have discovered that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ supplies the “something” I was missing for so many years. Sharing with others what He is continually doing in and through my life adds the fire. As I said earlier, “we all need to be on fire for something”!
Today I am a “Redeemed & re-purposed professional baseball player”, husband, father Realtor, writer, and I am Second. I don’t ever want to be first again.
Want to make a simple two step decision that will change your life?
Get in the boat. Do your part.
Shane / #16
Nose to Toes Pop. I’m not done yet……………
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