Listen, Catch, and Let Fly
by Brent Baker
But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”
It was January 1993 and the weather in Wichita Falls, Texas, was blizzard-esque. The temperature had dropped below freezing, the sleet and snow were falling, and the wind was blowing strong enough to sweep away anything under 100 pounds frozen wet. Game time for the Toy Bowl (the Superbowl of the Pop Warner football league) was 2:00 pm sharp that Saturday, and the gloomy weather carried with it a weight that only the game could surpass. The Benjamin Franklin Lions were taking on the Washington Jackson Leopards in what was touted as the “game of the year” for all football lovers age 11 and under. The Leopards were highly favored as the returning champs, but the Lions were a well-coached, disciplined team trying to oust this “football Pharaoh” from its throne. This game was certainly a game that would be talked about at lunch tables for the remainder of the 1993-1994 school year. I happened to play wide receiver for the Ben Franklin Lions as well as kickoff returner and punt returner. All that really means is I was halfway coordinated, could catch a football, and was really fast. My frame was less-than-intimidating, but my feet would make a grown man’s knees shake.
I remember waking up that Toy Bowl Saturday morning to my alarm clock, and instead of experiencing excitement, I had an overwhelming sense of fear. The weather was terrible! My hands would be frozen, and I would not be able to catch! I could not bear the idea of failing my team and my coach and my dad by dropping a pass or fumbling a punt or…even worse…getting tackled by guys twice my size when my whole body felt like an icicle! The thought of the possibility of failure and the certainty of pain was enough to inwardly paralyze me and strip any joy or excitement I had to play in what I decided should be deemed the Blizzard Bowl of Death. I was certain to fail and certain to hurt and certain to lose. The fear was paralyzing. As game time approached, I informed my coach that I would not be able to play that day. He looked shocked and perplexed but responded calmly, “Baker, give me one good reason why you can’t go?” I told him my feet hurt. I told him I couldn’t feel my hands. I told him we needed to run the ball a lot because it was going to be impossible for the quarterback to pass and impossible for me to catch a pass, punt, or kick. I told him I felt sickly. I told him I couldn’t do it. And to my surprise, after voicing brief disappointment, he conceded. I began the game on the sideline paralyzed by my own fear and consumed with my perceived weaknesses.
In the second quarter with the game close my coach grabbed my facemask and asked if I would simply go in for the next offensive series. He gave me a Churchill-ian pep talk about his confidence in me and his call of me and his desire to have me lead our Lions. He reminded me that I was equipped to play a special role and special part on this team and that’s why he had made me a captain at the beginning of the season. I initially responded with a refrain of excuses and reminded him of my weakness and inability, concluding with, “No thanks.” But he would not take “no” for an answer. He put me in. On the second play of the series, our quarterback called a hitch pass to me out wide on the left side of the field. I lined up shaking (but who wasn’t in this Blizzard Bowl of Death). I stared across the line and saw Pharaoh’s minions staring across at me. Uniformed in purple and black they looked like man-sized bruises, and I feared they wished to inflict the same on me. Every synapse of my brain informed me I should be on the sidelines, because the next few moments would result in certain failure, fumble, or pain, but to coach’s call I went against my judgment and stepped to the line. Our quarterback hiked the ball and threw it in my direction before I could gather my thoughts. Then my world changed that day. I caught it. I CAUGHT IT! Without a passing thought my feet took over, and 55 yards later I was celebrating in the end zone with my teammates—I evaded two tacklers and scored a touchdown! New warmth coursed through my body as I lined up for the kickoff. I saw Pharaoh and his Leopards in a completely different light. There was victory to be had, and I was going to be part of this 11-year-old army having it.
From that point forward I listened to my coach’s call and let my feet fly. No more excuses. No more paralysis or fear. Just the mission at hand. Three quarters later the Ben Franklin Lions triumphed victoriously with a snowball fight celebration at mid-field, having dethroned Pharaoh and defeated the unbeatable Leopards by 30 points as Toy Bowl Champs.
What is God calling you to do, and are you standing on the sidelines? If your immediate response is defensive or a list of excuses, fears, or weaknesses, you sound like Toy Bowl Brent or our forefather Moses in Exodus 4 (re-read the passage). And you’re missing out. There is nothing more fulfilling or joyful than the call of God on your life. There is a joy in surrender and participation that will never be reached in self-preservation and bench-warming. Get on the field!
What is your response to God’s call on your life? Some of you have been wrestling with God for months, maybe years with His invitation to you. What have you been saying to Him? Informing Him of your weakness or lack of giftedness? Justifying your fears? Brent told Coach he was too small and too cold and too afraid. Moses told God he was ineloquent and had a speech impediment. What are you saying? “I’m too ill-equipped.” “I don’t know enough to make any head way for the Kingdom.” “I could never live there, Lord!” “What will other people think if I really do that?” “I am not an eloquent person, so I can’t really teach.” “If only I were gifted like so-and-so.” All these echo our forefather Moses: “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”
Be not afraid of the blizzard or the Leopards. Listen to the call of your Coach. Shakingly move forward to the line, catch the ball, and then let your feet fly. He calls you, for His glory, your joy, and the victory of His people. There is good news: God gladly employs and empowers stutterers to speak, the ineloquent to teach, excuse-makers to lead, and scaredy-cats to push back the darkness of Pharaoh and set His people free. Catch His call for your life and let your feet fly!