Much like any mother, I held my breath as my son, Ben, stepped up to the plate, bat in hand. All the pressure, all the desire to knock the ball out of the park was evident in his face as each pitch was made.
Finally, after the sixth strike and a change of bats (clearly the first one was faulty), there it was, the often elusive over the fence home run that every baseball player lives for! The small crowd cheered. His dad and I cheered extra loudly as he rounded the bases and ran to tag home plate with a big smile on his face, satisfied with his performance.
Now at this point you are probably wondering if I am totally oblivious to the rules of baseball or if there is an overlooked typo in the first paragraph. I do understand that, in the game of baseball, after three strikes you are out, disappointed and back on the bench. However, the rules are a little different in this game. The players on these two teams, both male and female ranging in age from early twenties to late fifties, all have some form of disability. Some are pushed in wheel chairs as they round the bases, some like my son, have a form of autism, some have help holding the bat and making the swing. They are all participating in what is called Challenger League Baseball, aptly named since each player faces his or her own challenges in every day life.
In this league, there are no losers. The score is not kept, the rules are very loosely followed, and you get to bat until you make a hit. Errors are made, but not counted as balls are missed, recovered, dropped and dropped again in an attempt to make an out. Everyone is cheering for both teams, and there is fun to had by all.
Since the game is played on a little league field, I am sometimes distracted by the younger children practicing on the adjacent fields, hearing the coaches talk about the next practice and whose mom is supposed to bring hotdogs and drinks for the next postgame party. For a moment, I let my guard down enough to be sad that Ben was unable to have those experiences in his early years. Then my thoughts turn to my husband who missed out on having those times with his son. Eddy is a great dad who loves sports, and would have found so much joy in sharing that love with Ben. I glance his way, hoping his mind is not going down the same path as mine. I greive for a moment, clear my head, and refocus on the game being played. I have to chuckle as I spy Ben in the outfield, hands behind his back, watching the ball hum overhead making no attempt to catch it. Baseball to him is going to bat and running the bases. He is not a bit interested or engaged with anything that happens when he is in the outfield!
As I watch the other players, I have a realization that grief is not my emotion to own. I see them for the first time as children of parents who have also done their fair share of greiving. Parents filled with hopes and dreams for their precious newborn babies. Because of our shared pain, I find a common ground with these parents whom I have never met. Without doubt, they too have mourned the lives their children will not have because of their special needs. I whisper a prayer for each one as we travel this road together, a road not on the original map we had drawn up for our lives. Hopefully they, like myself, have made some peace with that sadness and can see that God makes no mistakes and has a purpose for their child, His precious child. I find that God’s peace for me in this is requested and delivered one day at a time. And that is what He has promised, one day at a time. (Matt. 6:34)
The Bible says this in 2 Cor. 1:3 (The Message Version) :
All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsell! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.
With the ever increasing numbers of children diagnosed with autism, God has given me quite a few opportunities to share with other parents, to cry with them, to love on them. What is unique about your life and the road you are on? Have you looked around recently to see who is on the road you are traveling? How has God ministered to you through the hard times experienced on your journey? You may meet someone this very day that you can come alongside and minister to because of your own unique experience and pain. Perhaps you have left someone behind that comes to mind. Give them a call or a visit. Make it a point to be there for that person as God was there for you. He will give you the words to say. Perhaps words will not be required. Simply your presence and a listening ear may be all that is needed. Just be available! What a wonderful feeling it is to be used by God for this purpose, His purpose.
Ben’s game is coming to an end. Each team leaves feeling they have won. I know I have because God gave Ben to me and Eddy. God has used Ben in my life through some extremely difficult and painful times to draw me closer to God and help me learn of His love and presence in the midst of the storm. I praise God for all that Ben can do despite his special needs and all he has brought in the form of love and growth in my life. Here he comes, the home run king, feeling all spunky about his game. It’s time for that big embarrasing momma kiss that guys hate to get in front of their friends. I love my son! God bless you all!