The Softball Story – Our Overcoming & Joyful God

Bob Hartley: “Have I ever told you the softball story?”

“In the sixth grade, I was the pitcher for the softball team against the teachers. We were playing the teachers. We had never won as a school since 1812. It was an annual competition. This is the first time in history it is even close. We are winning 2-1.

I’m pitching underhand pitches. They are hitting one hoppers into the ground. I got a back spin on it. I am becoming a hero. The last inning comes. I am dreaming of two outs. There is a runner on second. I am dreaming of getting this little teacher woman, who always bounces it to me, or bounces it to the shortstop, throwing her out and us being on the front page of the newspaper. The women screaming. The children frollicking. I saw it. From then on, our lives were gravy. Heroes!

I throw the pitch to her. She one hops it back to me. I turn around. I threw that ball for some reason at second base. If I throw it at first base, they are out. They are done. I am ten feet from first base. For some reason, I ripped that ball towards second base. I threw that ball so hard, it’s still rolling till this day. I see the center fielder look at me like “You’re nuts!” He takes off running. The person scores from second. This little teacher runs and hobbles all the way around and scores.

I throw down my glove. I go from the GOAT to a nobody. I start to walk home. I am walking through the woods that is right behind the school. My apartment complex is on the other side. Eight to ten of my closest buddies who were playing in the game are waiting

 in the woods. They come out, and they start to grab me like they are going to beat me up. I was so hurt. They would not have been in the game, if I had not played. That was my attitude. We had years of history together. It was so devastating to me as a twelve

 year old boy. I wrestled a few of them back. I pushed away from them and ran up the hill. I was devastated. I had done everything for them. Laid everything down for them. I had blown it with a dumb play. I thought, “I am just never going to rise again.”

I go into my house. My dad is there. After a little while, he comes home from work. We sit down. He says, “Bobby, this forty-five minute softball game is not going to define your life. You are going to be a great man. You are going to do a lot of great things.”

 He spoke from this place of being victorious with such celebration. The victorious Lord is not someone who only combats and fights the darkness. It is somebody who is so welled up with confidence. He did for me.

I go back to the school on Monday. I sneak into the principal’s office. He would do announcements in the morning. I speak into the microphone, “This is ‘Forgive Bob Hartley Day.’ One forty-five minute game is not going to define Bob Hartley. Bob Hartley will rise again. Bob Hartley will touch hearts and lives. Bob Hartley will make an impact in love and help change this earth to make it a better place.” All of a sudden, I hear the principal’s feet running down the hallway. I snuck into his announcement room. I hurry and said, “So hug Bob Hartley today.” Then, I run out.

That day, there was a liberty that came over people; and they hugged me. A sense of joy and humor won the day. Such a confidence in God.

God showed me in my life this softball game has gone to a different level where I felt like I had blown it in being a reformer. I am just not up to it. I am just not going to succeed. I just have these issues and these challenges. I am buried by finance. I am buried by personal, family, and life needs. He takes me in the corner of the overcoming room and shows me His face through my father’s face as an overcoming, victorious, confident, celebratory, humorous God who is full of life.

After my dad said that to me, I had to ask God, “Are these things true? How do You see me? What is happening?” The cubby hole the Lord showed me as a sixth grader is that He would give me the tools I would need to succeed. In this victorious Yellow House room, He would give me the upgraded tools needed to be a reformer in the planet with others.”