Farewell Captain

In 2003, as a 9 year old, I read the first of many books that would change my life. It was an autobiography of Derek Jeter titled, The Life You Imagine: Life Lessons for Achieving Your Dreams. At that point in my life, baseball was everything. I played in every type of baseball league I could find. I watched every Seattle Mariners game I could and faithfully kept up with shows like “Sports Center” and “Baseball Tonight.” I collected trading cards, and even got into a baseball board game.  I spent hours drawing up All-Star lineups and having internal debates about whether Albert Pujols or Vladimir Guerro should bat cleanup for my imaginary team. I knew without a doubt that I would be playing in the big leagues someday. Oh, and I read about baseball. So as a 9 year old boy, the Gospel of Derek Jeter became my holy text.

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The book that changed everything for me.

Obviously, my obsession with baseball was a little out of control, and don’t worry, I am well aware that the Gospel of Derek Jeter is not in the Bible. But that’s not what this is about. No this is about the ballplayer who changed my life.  The man who inspired me to be great, and fueled the dreams that made my childhood so memorable. This is about one of the most legendary athletes of my era, Derek Jeter.

Growing up as a God fearing, Seattle Mariners fan, it was only natural for me to hate the Yankees.  The Seattle Mariners were the loveable grassroots organization fighting for a clean environment, while the Yankees were the evil empire polluting the planet. I loved to hate them. And yet, I just couldn’t bring myself to hate Derek Jeter.  Before I ever read anything about him, I could tell there was something different.  He was cool, and he was consistent. He had this natural sense of respect that was so clear just by the way he carried himself. And of course, he played shortstop just like me. I spent countless hours trying to perfect the classic Jeter backhand-to-a-hop-throw from deep in the hole, and imitated his nonchalant but confident mannerisms in the batters box. The man who bled pinstripes, who epitomized the very team that I so dearly hated, had somehow captured my affection.

I don’t remember who bought me the Derek Jeter autobiography. I want to say I found it at a book fair at my elementary school and convinced my parents to buy it, but I can’t be sure.  What I do know is that I ripped through that thing cover to cover.  I ate up every word of the book, digested it, and read it again. I remember reading about how when Derek Jeter was just a boy he walked into his parents bedroom, sat the foot of the bed and told them matter of factly that he was going to play in the MLB. I saw how they believed in him, and I hoped my parents would do the same for me. I read about how when he was in high school he would spend hours on end tossing baseballs across the basketball court to build up his arm strength. I was inspired by his boyish love for the game, and when he talked about standing in the field hoping that every single play would come to him, I felt as if we were of one heart. He taught me to play the game with reckless abandon, to run out every ground ball and dive headfirst into the stands when you could easily just a let a ball go. I wanted to play the game just like Derek Jeter.

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Classic Derek Jeter.

Obviously, mine and Derek Jeter’s careers went down very different paths. My baseball career peaked in 8th grade, and the only times I have played shortstop since then have been on my youth group’s slow pitch softball team.  Yet on Thursday night, as I streamed the Yankees game on my laptop in the library, and watched Derek Jeter celebrate his last game at home with an unsurprising walk off line drive to opposite field, I felt just as connected as ever.  Because the things I learned from Derek Jeter go much further than playing baseball.  He showed me what it means to be fully dedicated and committed to something. He was an example of remaining humble while having every right to be arrogant. He consistently did the right thing and took on the character of role model without blinking an eye. He showed me what it means to be a true leader, one who commands respect but doesn’t demand it. He’s a player admired by my peers, by my parents, and by millions of 9 year old boys out there who want nothing more than to be just like Derek Jeter someday.

Derek, thanks for giving America someone they could root for through hard times.  Thank you for being an incredible, positive example for millions of people, young and old.  Thank you for staying true to the game. I’m even thankful for the way you stayed committed to the Yankees, as good as you may have looked in a Mariners uniform. Thank you for being someone that we could count on, when it seemed like all the rest of our hero’s were letting us down. Baseball will not be the same without you Derek, and it is better because of you.  I’ll never play professional baseball, and the extent of my baseball career from here on out may be playing catch with my future son in my backyard. And while we play catch, I know that I will tell him about you, and I hope that he too will want to be just like you. Farewell Captain.

The Chronic Worry Wort

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving. Present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4: 6-7

Philippians 4:6-7 is my hope and my prayer. You see, I worry, a lot, and I get anxious easily. You may or may not know this about me, but it is true.  I worry about my future plans. I worry about my career. I worry about my education. I worry about my friends. I worry about my family. I worry about my girlfriend. I worry about money. I worry about what people think of me. I worry about being accepted. I worry about finding God’s calling for my life. I worry about what I will do each weekend. I worry about whether I will get all my homework done or not. I worry about getting enough sleep each night. I worry about taking on the right jobs or responsibilities. I worry about being healthy and fit. I even sometimes worry about decisions I have already made. And I don’t know how to stop.

This summer, I talked about the joy of being fully alive. I also experienced the joy of being fully present and engaged in each moment, with few worries to weigh me down.  Each day was an adventure of its own, and the only worry was about making it to the top of the next hill, or through the next rapid. It was an environment in which I had no choice but to be fully focused on the present.  It was marvelous. I felt closer to God than ever, and I felt very little anxiety. I began to think that maybe I had moved past this worrying thing.  It didn’t take long of being back at school to realize this was not the case.  As homework piled on, money dwindled down, job opportunities arose, ministries got moving, my mind once again started racing.

Oftentimes, there are days where I find enough to distract me from really thinking about much, but when I lay down at night, a switch clicks on in my brain. All of a sudden, every thought, every dream, every anxiety and fear, every worry comes barreling down on me like a freight train. My heart starts beating faster and my mind runs circles around itself. I will just say certain words in my head over and over, or turn on a podcast in hopes of forcing my brain to quiet down and let myself fall asleep. It’s more frustrating then I can possibly describe. I have started seeking out solutions to my worrying. I started keeping an ongoing to-do list in hopes that being more organized would keep the worries away. Instead I just started running through my to-do lists every night when I would go to bed.  I tried to just drown out my thoughts, by filling every hour with something and not letting myself just be still. That only made the problem worse because my thoughts would just compile over the day and explode when I finally had a quiet moment. I turned to exercise, and it helped, but only for a moment. Nothing seemed to really work.

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“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11

I have totally been missing it. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to the Lord.” There it is. That’s it. In my quest to quiet my thoughts and worries, I seemed to have also quieted that still small voice of God saying, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) I was refusing to take my worries to the God who promises that his peace, “which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” I have realized that my worrying problem is really just a not trusting God problem.  If I truly believe that God has His hand on my life, and that he has prepared a way for me, and knows the plans he has for me, and if I truly believe what his Word says, then what reason do I have to worry? The God of the universe, who created us and sent his son to die for us, is big enough to take on all our problems, fears, anxieties, and worries. He waits expectantly for us to come to Him, so that He might give us peace that transcends all understanding. Lord, I am ready for that peace.