Can You Hit a Slider in the Dirt?

By on October 1, 2014

By Sharon V. King –

“Life is baseball—the rest is just details.” That’s one of many colorful T-shirt slogans you may see people wearing in the early fall each year. It’s time for Major League Baseball’s Post-Season; and, for those of us who love the game, it’s the best time of the year. If your team is a contender for a coveted play-off spot, you hang on every pitch and swing of the bat. If your team is in the cellar, with nothing to hope for but the arrival of next year’s spring training, all you can do is weep!

What is God’s role in the ball game of life? He can handle just about anything required for the game. Whether up in the front office with the management; or in the training room with a player on the DL (disabled list); or in the dugout giving the signs for a squeeze play to get an extra run, God knows what it takes to put a “W” on the board (that’s “W” for “Win”).

I enjoy thinking of God on the pitcher’s mound of life. He can view the whole field, size up the game’s situation, see who’s on base, and choose the most effective pitch to give His team a chance to win. If you’re up to bat, you may eagerly wait for God to throw a nice fast ball right down the middle that’s ready for you to hit a homer and watch your hopes and dreams soar—but, sometimes, it may seem that God has thrown a slider in the dirt.

If you’re unfamiliar with the many intricate types of baseball pitches, all you need to know about the slider is that some refer to it as a “nasty” pitch, almost impossible to hit. When it leaves the pitcher’s hands, the batter sees this nice fat object heading straight for him (or her). It’s a familiar scenario, and the batter knows just what to do with it. For those of us who have been swinging for the fences for 50+ years, we just dig in our heels, rely on all our experience and cleverness, and prepare to hear the crack of the bat.

Suddenly—it’s gone! The ball we saw so clearly just a few moments ago disappears. We swing at nothing but air. We look down at our ankles, and there’s the catcher holding the ball with scuff marks on it—a slider in the dirt. The pitcher has skillfully framed the release of the ball so that it looks at first like the easiest thing in the world to handle, and then it drops like a lead balloon. By the time you figure out what has happened, the umpire yells, “Yer Out!” During the slow walk back to the dugout, the batter stares over at the pitcher, wondering, “Where did that come from?”

Okay, I’ll tone down my obvious baseball enthusiasm and allow you to apply the analogy to your own situations from here. Your sliders in the dirt may be finances, or family relationships, or loneliness, or irritating neighbors, or job stress, or unemployment, or divorce, or foreclosure, or health problems, or caregiving responsibilities, or just an unexpected car repair. We stride bravely to the plate and take our best swing, only to realize we just don’t have sufficient resources in ourselves to handle the tough pitches of life.

My slider in the dirt arrived a few weeks ago with a medical diagnosis that came out of the blue. I have a family history of heart disease, so I wasn’t totally caught off guard when my EKG showed an irregular heart beat; but, I felt fine. It turns out I’m one of millions of people over 50 who have atrial fibrillation (AFib) and don’t know it. Unlike other heart conditions, AFib may not announce itself with chest pains and shortness of breath. A simple pulse check can help identify it. If your pulse feels like Morse Code, instead of a nice even rhythm, it may be AFib. A trip to the cardiologist for a set of heart tests is the best way to confirm a diagnosis.

Years of practice in the batting cage of life didn’t prepare me for this sneaky slider in the dirt. I had followed all the recommendations for people with a family history of heart problems—no smoking, moderate drinking, low-fat and low-sodium diet, regular exercise. I was no rookie at the plate, but I sure didn’t see this one coming. Now, I have to head back down to the Minor Leagues and learn about this new health reality in my life from the ground up.

When life throws us a nasty pitch, God is the first One to encourage us to hang in there. We may not have enough velocity in our swing to handle sliders in the dirt, but He does. God can use our difficulties to strengthen our reliance on Him. He may have to pull us out of the lineup for a few games, but we can use that time to reflect on His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)—no matter how many extra innings it may take to win the game.

For more information about atrial fibrillation, see www.StopAfib.org.

© 2014 Sharon V. King, PhD

Sharon V. King

About Sharon V. King

Sharon is a retired gerontology professor who writes self-help devotional books for 50+ women. In addition to her academic journal articles about religion and aging, Sharon has published several inspirational ezine articles and Christian Education curricula. Her new book, Aging Gracefully with the 23rd Psalm, will be published later this year by Anaiah Press. Connect with Sharon on her blog at www.yearsfullofgrace.wordpress.com.

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Can You Hit a Slider in the Dirt?