The story of how God used the game of Softball to strengthen my faith.
I was eight years old when I was baptized at Sunnyside Baptist Church. I was so excited about making the decision to be baptized! I told all of my family and friends about the public declaration I would soon make. I knew the year was going to be amazing because of the commitment I made to Jesus.
That very year I also began to play softball. I picked the sport up right away and things were easy for me. I started to play year-round and the next thing you know… softball became my life. Every weekend was spent at the softball field. Every holiday was an excuse for a tournament. One Sunday lead to another, and eventually I stopped attending church.
“Show Case” tournaments took priority over Sunday worship and fellowship. Earning a college scholarship took priority over discipleship and growing in faith. I lived and breathed softball. My highs and my lows were determined by how well I played. I was a softball player and I found my worth in how well I played. Even my relationship with my dad began to be effected by softball. If I played well, we were the best of friends. If I didn’t… you know the story!
The Game that Changed Everything
As a junior in high school I had my choice of universities to attend and play softball. I was on top of the world. That year I pitched 4 perfect games with 7 no hitters. I was on my way to setting a CIF strikeout record (1,086). Life couldn’t get any better, until…
I played a tournament in Fontana California. I went about my day as usual. I prayed for God to help us win and keep us injury free. I also went about my regular pitching routine of drawing a “T” in the pitching circle. The pitching circle was my “house” and I needed to mark my territory. Before each inning I would draw the letter “T” for Tatyana. I’m also a Taurus, so I would approach the batter like a bull. I would paw and mark over my “T” for each strike. When I got a strike out, I would dust the batter off and prepare for the next.
After the game, the umpire approached me. He congratulated me on a great game, but went on to make a life changing statement. He said, “I respect that. Isn’t that a “cross” you draw in the circle?”
I thought “wow”. I wanted to lie and tell him that it was indeed a cross I drew before each inning. But, I told him, “no, it isn’t a cross… but it should be!”
From a “T” to a “Cross”
From that day on I drew a cross instead of a “T”. Instead of pawing the ground for each strike, I began to paw the ground for the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The game that took me away from church and even brought the worst out of me (pride, selfishness, greed); brought me closer to God. Pitching became a way for me to honor God with my ability. Pitching became a time of prayer and worship. It was amazing to share the sport I loved with my heavenly Father. I stopped playing under the pressure of pleasing my dad or earning a scholarship; and began to play for an audience of one- God.
Fast forward, and I’m a sophomore at Oregon State University. I’m returning from a successful year as a freshman pitcher with a 16-4 record and wins against ranked teams. But, all of a sudden I sucked! I mean, really sucked. I finish my sophomore year with a 4-2 record. This was the toughest season I had ever experienced. My self esteem, my friendships, and my faith were all negatively impacted by my lack of playing time and production on the field. I even felt my teammates treated me differently because of my play. I knew my teammates loved me, but I continued to feel alone.
I remember praying to God and begging for answers. Why am I not playing well? Why am I not getting more opportunities to prove myself? Why am I letting everyone down? I asked God to lead me to answers. So I opened my Bible and randomly landed on Philippians 3:13-14
13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
I begin to cry because God revealed so much in this passage. Paul pens the Book of Philippians and explains how all his accomplishments pale in comparison to knowing Christ. He encourages us to “forget” our past and press towards the goal of Christ. I lost focus of what mattered and I needed to learn this lesson the hard way. Here’s what I learned:
1. Softball became my God.
2. I needed to find my identity in God and not in how well I played.
3. It’s easy to have faith when everything is going well.
4. God doesn’t need me to play well for others to believe in Him.
Number 4, was a huge hurdle for me to overcome. In many ways I believed that my teammates would only be interested in Christianity if I was successful. Who would want to have faith in God and make the sacrifices that He requires and still suck?
But God showed me that my character would be revealed to my teammates in adversity. It wasn’t my job to prove the realness of God. But it was my job to persevere and make God my priority once again. Looking back, I thank God for that experience. I felt bad for my team being effected by the lesson God needed to teach me. However, I would not have learned the lesson without that difficult season. I’m blessed today, because even if my opponents don’t remember my name… They remember I’m the pitcher that drew the cross!
I call this my softball testimony and I have the privilege to share my story to young softball players through Fellowship of Christian Athletes. It warms my heart to hear of girls drawing the “cross” in the pitching circle. I share my story because God met me exactly where I was… On the Softball Field. God can use many things, even sports to get our attention. He pursues us and wants us to honor Him with the things we love.
I encourage you to find the “T’s” in your life and turn them into “crosses.” Finally let the treasure of your hearts be found in God and not in your accomplishments.