When my children played softball, we had a saying that was pounded into their heads: Leave it all on the field. I bet I have said it over a thousand times to my girls. It means hold nothing back, play your heart out and give it all you have to win. I believe it is good advice for sports and a great metaphor for life in general.
My daughter Bethany was born the same year her oldest sisters started playing softball and was usually at the field with us. This means she literally heard this phrase her entire life, from the time she was born until she stopped playing competitive softball at age 18. Bethany was the least tomboy of my girls, but was also the most driven to excel at sports, as she was almost obsessed to play to the level of her four older sisters. She had an incredible softball work ethic. Throughout her youth, she pushed herself to throw at least 200 pitches per day (that’s an astounding 70,000 per year!), hardly ever missing a day, including most Christmases!
Trust me, my poor body can attest to how much Bethany pitched, as I was her primary practice catcher throughout those years. The problem was that every year she got way faster and I got way slower! My knees were the first casualty, from all the crouching. At some point I started sitting on a bucket to preserve them. Unfortunately, this exposed my feet and on the very first day she broke one of my big toes with a drop ball, leading to several years of having to wear steel-toed shoes whenever I caught for her. Though I wore catcher’s gear, I have still had my bell rung more times than I can count from all the times I got hit in the mask. I have been pelted on every body part imaginable, several times, including (ouch!) my Adam’s apple. But I digress…
By the time Bethany reached her senior year of high school, her body was beginning to show the signs of wear and tear from the physical stress it had been through. By the end of the season, she had five bulging discs in her back and an injured hip. She came home from the field many nights and soaked her body in ice in our bathtub, screaming out in agony. I couldn’t stand to see the pain she was in and begged her to quit playing; however, due to player injuries and attrition, her team needed her to throw virtually every pitch that year, especially toward the end of the season. She refused to let her teammates and coaches down, and willed herself to finish out her commitment.
At last, Bethany’s high school team lost in a heartbreaking game in the district championship, bringing her senior season and career to a merciful end. Although college coaches had been recruiting her, playing beyond high school was now out of the question, as her body could not take any more. She had left it all on the field. I hated myself for ever uttering that expression.
There is no better example of leaving it all on the field than what Jesus did for the likes of me at Calvary. He endured unspeakable, unimaginable torment for lowly, worthless me. There is absolutely no possible burden I would ever bear that could even remotely come close to what He did that day. I do try to think of Jesus’ anguish when I am going through my earthly trials, but I need to be much more mindful of what He went through for me. Am I witnessing for Him at every possible opportunity? When I die, will I have done everything in my power to further His kingdom? Will I leave it all on the field?
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).