I remember something remarkable in the College Softball World Series a few years ago. I’ve been interested and involved sports all of my life so there’s not much that genuinely impresses me—but this did.
Here was the situation: the score was 2-0 and it was in the bottom of the fourth inning of a seven inning game. The team that was trailing had rallied and loaded the bases. There were two outs in the inning but their best player, a four time All-American, was up to bat.
But she never got the chance. The coach took her out of the game.
She wasn’t injured, or sick. There was nothing wrong with her. Still, the coach took her out of the game and replaced her with a freshman. An All-American replaced by a freshman? Was the coach out of his mind? But there’s more, this was the team’s third game in the World Series and the freshman hadn’t played in either of the first two games. In fact, her last hit in a game had been over a month before. Still, the coach put her in to take the place of a senior, all-everything player. Unbelievable!
In stories like this one, you sometimes know what has to happen. Even though it’s real life, it’s as though Hollywood has written the script. There’s no way the freshman was going to strike out, or ground into an inning ending force out. The ball never had a chance. It ended up on the other side of the left field fence. Grand slam. Game over.
Still, the way I see it, the story here is not about what she did with the opportunity as much as it is about the fact that she was given the opportunity. And that came because someone believed in her. When the coach was questioned at the post-game news conference about his decision to put her in the game, he recalled a game months before, in February. The freshman had struck out and he called her over. He told her, I love the way you swing the bat. You’re going to hit her next time. The next time up she hit a home run over the right field fence. In the practices preparing for the World Series, he had raved to the other coaches about how well she was swinging the bat saying, We’ve got to get her an at-bat. Someone believed in her and it wasn’t a secret. She knew it and everyone else did too.
We hear a lot (and rightly so), about people believing in God. But we hear precious little about God believing in man. And yet the truth is there, big as a highway billboard, GOD BELIEVES IN MAN! Creation bears witness to it, so does the incarnation. God believes in man—even when man doesn’t believe in Him. He believes because it is His nature, the nature of love to do so. Love “bears all things, believe all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
God’s belief in man is not the superficial, naive belief of the infatuated, it is the eyes wide open belief of the Almighty. He knows all there is to know about us: our successes and failures, our dreams and disappointments. He knows the pitches we feast on as well as the hole in our swing. So when he calls us to step up to the plate, it is because He believes in us.
It’s hard to imagine that kind of belief didn’t make a difference to the freshman batting that day in the College Softball World Series. It’s hard to think it won’t make a difference with us. Put your trust in the God who believes in man.