Sitting on the Sidelines

David pitching

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. – James 1:19 (NIV)

When our youngest son played baseball, I learned a lot about sitting on the sidelines and watching my child struggle—knowing, outside of cheering encouragement from the stands, there was nothing I could do to help him.

That’s hard for a parent. We want to help our children any way we can. We want to fix what’s broken in their lives, kiss the boo-boos, take away the hurt—and we’ll move heaven and earth to accomplish it. 

When they’re little and still living at home, we can do that. Then they grow up, and learning to be a (good) parent moves up to another level. A whole new set of skills waits to be learned, new behaviors to be adapted, if we want to maintain a healthy, thriving relationship with them and continue to influence them in a positive way.

Watching our son struggle on the mound during his baseball years was but a prelude to watching a grownup child grapple with the curve balls of life. 

What’s a parent to do?

What the apostle James wrote in the first-century is excellent parenting advice in the twenty-first.

First, be quick to listen. Be a good listener. That means listen with your ears and with your heart. Listen without judging. Listen without trying to come up with an answer, a solution. Just let them talk. Listen without thinking of your demanding to-do list. Thank God your child wants to confide in you. Be a careful, thoughtful listener (Amplified version of James 1:19).

Second, be slow to speak. The writer of Ecclesiastes gives good advice when he advises,  “Do not be quick with your mouth. Do not be hasty in your heart . . . let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Pray for wisdom before you speak. Don’t give advice unless asked for it, and when you do, let your words be few. Be “a speaker of carefully chosen words” (Amplified). Ask questions to help them figure it out for themselves, see things that they don’t see, understand things a little bit better. “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29).

Third, be slow to become angry. Keeping emotions in check is difficult when your child is hurting. The Mama Bear is roaring at her cage doors. You’ve got to keep her locked up. Know when to intervene and how. Be patient, reflective, forgiving (Amplified).

Sometimes—most times—you don’t know when or how to intervene—or even if you should. That’s where prayer comes in. Ask God for His wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

And finally, love unconditionally. Our children respond to our love more than to our words. Read 1 Corinthians 13 over and over. Model that kind of love, and keep the doors open and the coffee pot ready. 

Being a parent doesn’t come with an expiration date—it’s a lifetime commitment. Being a good parent means you never stop learning how.

With the grace of God, the wisdom of His Word, and persistent prayer, I can be the parent my child needs, even when—especially when—I’m sitting on the sidelines.

 Help me, Lord, to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry when I’m standing on the sidelines watching my children struggle with life. Amen.

 Read and reflect on James 3:17–18.

 From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

For the LORD gives wisdom . . . he holds victory in store for the upright. – Proverbs 2:6, 7 NIV

I love baseball!

I often think how guidelines to playing the game translate into wise counsel for living life victoriously. Here, in no particular order and listed as they came to me, is some of the advice I heard my husband give my son during our baseball years:

Keep alert. Be ready for that ball to come to you. Anticipate the next play. The same is true in life. Much comes bouncing, flying straight at you when you least expect it. “Stay alert,” the apostle Peter wrote, “keep a firm grip on the faith” (1 Peter 5:8 The Message).

Listen to your coach. Know the signs and heed them. He’s the coach for a reason—he knows more than you about the game and he sees what you, in your position on the field, can’t. He wants you to overcome the opponent and come out on top. In life, “trust in the LORD and do good,” (Psalm 37:3), for in heeding Him “there is great reward” (Psalm 19:11). (Don’t forget Isaiah 55:8–9.)

Back up your pitcher. Support your team members. I remember the wife of David’s Little League coach cheering for the team to “talk it up out there.” The coach didn’t want silence on the field—he wanted to hear them encouraging each other. And don’t expect the pitcher to do it all. No matter how well he’s pitching, he needs some run support from the rest of the team if they want to win the game. “Encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Bad calls are part of the game. There’s nothing you can do about them. Arguing, whining, and letting it affect your attitude the rest of the game won’t help you or the rest of the team. Shrug it off. Life isn’t fair, either. Forget what’s behind you and press on to what’s ahead (Philippians 3:13–14).

Rain delays are part of the game, too. Sometimes you find yourself in a waiting period. You can’t stop the rain, but you can use the time to practice patience. (Psalm 37:7, Isaiah 40:31)

You win some, and you lose some. Cut your losses, learn from them and don’t let your wins get to your head. Instead, work on your weaknesses and don’t let pride nullify what strengths you have. (Proverbs 16:18).

Training is necessary, painful, and stretches you beyond your limits. But it also builds strength and character. The difficult things you face in life are the training ground God uses shape you into the person He wants you to be. (1 Corinthians 9:24–29)

Put on your game face. Attitude can make or break you. Like the renowned catcher Yogi Bera said, “Ninety percent of the game is half-mental.” So it is in life—what you think, what goes through your mind day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute—can be the determining factor in winning or losing, in overcoming or succumbing.  (Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:8–9)

You can do a lot on two outs. “The game isn’t over until it’s over” (Yogi Bera). Or in the words of the late Winston Churchill: “Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

And in the words of St. Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

 Help me, Lord, be to wise enough to heed Your guidelines. Amen.

Read and reflect on Proverbs 2:1–11.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.