By Rev. Mike Gillen, Pastor, Bowling Green First, Eolia, and Oak Grove United Methodist Churches
I’ve had the privilege of coaching little league baseball and softball for the past eight years. I’m blessed to have two children who love playing sports and don’t mind me being one of their coaches. I try to be the kind of coach that sees potential in every child and works to help players learn the right way to execute the fundamentals.
I’ve also learned that baseball and softball are sports that teach one of the most important lessons in life: how to fail. My baseball hero, George Brett of the Kansas City Royals, had a lifetime batting average of .305. That means George Brett got hits three out of every ten at bats. Mr. Brett is considered one of the greatest left handed hitters in baseball history. Yet almost seven out of 10 times at bat he made an out.
Can you imagine failing at something seven out of ten times and considering that a success? Baseball and softball are games that require players to have short memories, especially when the result of a play is failure. There’s always another pitch, another time up to bat, another ground ball to field.
As a little league coach my greatest challenge is teaching kids that mistakes happen and failures are part of playing the game. In many ways, it’s more important to me to teach my players how to come back from failures than it is to keep track of the teams’ wins and losses. A player who learns from mistakes, who keeps playing and learns to love the game, and who develops a sense of joy and hope is the greatest success in my eyes.
At the heart of baseball and softball is the opportunity to try again, to have a second chance, to make up for failure. What better life lesson? In life everyone fails. Likewise, life offers second chances and new opportunities.
The key to learning how to fail is simple. Failure doesn’t have to be the final answer. When George Brett was growing up his three older brothers were better than him at sports. All of his brothers played professional ball, two spending brief time in the minor leagues.
His second oldest brother, Ken, was also a major league player. Growing up Ken was thought by most professional baseball scouts to be the best athlete of the Brett brothers.
What would have happened if George had stopped playing baseball in little league when other people said his brothers were better than him? What if his failure to measure up to his brothers had led to him quitting, letting failure be the final answer?
Have you ever heard of Ken Brett? He had a solid professional career, pitching in the World Series when he was 19. But he’s not in the Hall of Fame. His little brother is.
George Brett didn’t become a Hall of Fame baseball player on his own. His father, his brothers, his coaches, and his teammates all helped him to learn how to succeed. Each time he made an out, someone was there to help him learn how to come back from failure.
There are times when each of us fails to fulfill the expectations others have for us. Each of us makes mistakes. Life is full of failures.
But failure doesn’t have to define who we are. It’s possible to learn from failures, to build on mistakes, and to take advantage of second chances.
The Christian faith is built on the idea that God is searching for each of us, wanting to offer us an eternal second chance through Jesus Christ. Before we know it, God’s grace has been involved in our lives in ways that prepare us to accept this second chance of faith.
This Sunday take advantage of the second chance God is offering you. Go to a local church. Find a minister and other people of faith who can help you learn from life’s failures. Discover how you can learn to succeed in life by growing in Christian faith. God wants to offer you a second chance. Will you learn how to fail?